Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Correspondent
THE Government has introduced Zupco buses to ply routes between the Bulawayo Central Business District and the city’s residential suburbs as it seeks to provide affordable transport to commuters.
This comes at a time when Zupco has partnered with private bus owners in Harare to provide cheaper transport for commuters.
The Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Advocate Fortune Chasi, yesterday said while a few Zupco buses have been introduced in Bulawayo, the Government is working on providing the city with a permanent solution for transport.
“Buses have been introduced in Bulawayo but I don’t have the actual numbers of the fleet on the road already. We are still working on those modalities for a permanent solution,” he said.
The Zupco buses that have been introduced ply the city centre-Pumula suburb routes only.
Bulawayo residents yesterday welcomed the introduction of Zupco buses.
They said the buses were a relief to them as they were struggling to raise the $2 fare per trip charged by kombis.
The Chronicle yesterday observed scores of residents boarding the Zupco buses at a pick up point near Tredgold Magistrates Courts.
The buses were accompanied by police and members of the Zimbabwe National Army to ensure public safety.
The introduction of Zupco buses saw kombi operators plying the same route reverting back to $1 fares they were initially charging as commuters were now shunning their vehicles.
The commuters appealed to Government to increase the bus fleet saying kombis were no longer reliable.
“We are waiting to board the bus because it is much cheaper. The economic situation is tough and with our low salaries we can hardly manage paying the $2 fares being charged by kombi crews. A $1 bus fare is manageable although it’s still expensive. Kombi operators are opportunists who always want to ride on the desperation of people by increasing fares willy-nilly. Now that Government has introduced Zupco buses, they are now trying to lure us by saying we pay $1. I ask myself, what has changed?” said Mr Stephen Maphosa from Old Pumula suburb.
Another commuter Miss Senelisiwe Ndlovu from the same suburb said kombi operators have themselves to blame if they lose customers to Zupco.
“What is happening is that when things are bad kombis just hike fares. Kombi fares are always fluctuating. Last week when things were bad they were even charging $3. But now they want to play nice because there is alternative transport. Government should make sure that there is consistency with the buses because if that does not happen we will revert to the mercy of kombi operators,” said Mrs Ndlovu.
Another commuter Mr Melody Moyo said buses are a reprieve for motorists.
He, however, suggested that there should be a bus which operates beyond the peak hour times in the evening.
A kombi tout who identified himself as Mdawini said due to the introduction of Zupco buses, their fares are now mostly negotiated.
“The kombi fare is $2 but from the Central Business District to Pelandaba we now charge a $1. However, even up to Pumula suburb individuals can negotiate for a cheaper fare because buses are hurting our business,” said Mdawini.