Rwanda: RURA Suspends Decision to Increase Public Transport Fares

22 October 2020

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) on Thursday, October 21, announced that the controversial decision to increase transport fares will be put on hold.

The pre-COVID-19 charges is what transporters will charge commuters effective Friday, October 23, 2020.

"Following consultations with relevant stakeholders led by the Prime Minister, RURA wishes to announce that implementation of the public transport tariff revision announced on 14/10/2020 has been suspended in order to monitor the pace of economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic," reads the a statement by the Regulatory Body.

It added: "In the interim, the Government of Rwanda will subsidize the cost of public transport to account for the economic effects of the pandemic on passengers."

According to RURA, the fare for City of Kigali fare is Rwf22/Km and Rwf21/Km in the rest of the country.

Currently, the price per kilometre within Kigali is at Rwf28.9 for each passenger, whereas the one of inter-city travels is at Rwf25.9 per kilometre.

The latest decision followed recent complaints raised by citizens via social media, over public transport tariff that RURA issued on October 14, which were higher than those applicable before the pandemic.

What fueled the complaints was the fact that the new fares were announced few days after the government's decision to lift restrictions on public transportation, allowing buses to increase their capacity.

The public's frustration then prompted the Prime Minister to intervene on Tuesday, promising to look into the matter and address it as soon as possible.

It is expected that all public transport routes with the new tariff replacing the suspended one will be announced on Thursday, October 22 and take effect on Friday, October 23.

The genesis of the transport fee saga

In May this year, after the Covid-19 lockdown was partially lifted, RURA increased fare within the Kigali city from Rwf22 per kilometer to Rwf31.8 per kilometer; and for the rest of the provinces from Rwf21 per kilometer to Rwf30.8 per kilometer.

The justification for the increase was that the buses were operating at half-capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions and in the event that the companies maintained pre-covid prices, they would run out of business.

After the government lifted transportation restrictions and allowed buses to carry passengers at full capacity for those seated and 50 percent for those standing, RURA announced revised public transport tariffs where fares within Kigali reduced from Rwf31.8 to Rwf28.9 per kilometre for each passenger.

Inter-city transport fares were also reduced from Rwf30.8 to Rwf25.9 per kilometre for each passenger.

This means that passengers had to incur approximately Rwf6.9 extra per kilometre they travel within Kigali (compared to before Covid-19) and Rwf4.9 per kilometre for upcountry travel.

RURA's explanation for the new fares was that they were in-line with a routine tariff review that the regulator carries out after every two years.

In reaction, some members of the public urged RURA to suspend the implementation of new tariffs since people are still grappling with the economic effects of Covid-19.

However, RURA officials argued the scheduled price increase was to ensure the privately-owned public transporters stay in business, considering that during the pandemic the transporters were operating at losses.

To solve the impasse, one of the recommendations by economic analysts and the civil society was for the government to chip in, which is what was implemented this time.

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