Championing public transport in Rwanda
Written by: Administrator
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016, 6:16
Until the 1990s, Public transport in Rwanda was kind of a mess. The transport was operated by 18 sitter mini buses, known colloquially as ‘Twegerane’ and the ineffective state-run public transporter called ONATRACOM.
The few taxi-parks badly built and others operating in open spaces were managed by ATRACO, Association des Transporteurs en Commun which was a non-profit making association of taxi drivers and conductors. ATRACO did not have a clear vision of how to improve the situation and invest in public transport with its non-profit making mandate.
“It was just an association, a reputed non-profit making association,” says Col (Rtd) Twahirwa Dodo, Chairman of the Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives
(RFTC). The federation brings together 12 cooperatives in public transport.
Col Dodo joined Atraco in 1999, and embarked on an intense reform which would be a landmark development in public transport business in Rwanda.
The main task consisted of organizing the drivers, having them acquired a discipline to provide required customer care. Finally ATRACO transformed into RFTC which was, this time, not an association of drivers, but the taxi owners.
The federation tendered and won the management of Nyabugogo Taxi Park which is the biggest in the country and several other taxi parks across the country. Most of the taxi parks were open space and RFTC started constructing them.
“They were just open air taxi parks, mini buses used to park in the mud,” says Col Dodo, who is happy that currently this has become history.
Business grew quickly, and RFTC acquired buses, Toyota Coasters 28 sitter, a Japanese brand worth over Rwf 50 million each. The federation now owns 105 coasters and has a target to increase this number to 300 vehicles.
The federation’s investment in buses was initially Rwf 5 Billion and is putting up Rwf 10 Billion to buy more vehicles. RFTC has managed to increase shareholding of the members and by next year will have cleared all bank loans.
According to Col Dodo, members who invested in RFTC with about a hundred thousands are now counting their shareholding in millions while cooperatives currently are in hundreds of millions.
To improve services RFTC in its latest order the new buses will be larger with luggage compartments. “We have made an order of buses that can carry many more passengers and with a boot for luggage,” Col Dodo emphasises. This means that passengers or traders from up country will be able to load their goods in the boot and board the same bus instead of hiring a different truck.
The order of new buses is expected before end of this year “We might have the buses before the end of this year,” said Col. Dodo.
Servicing Kigali Public Transport
In a drive to enhance transport in the Capital Kigali, City authorities in August 2013 introduced new reforms by dividing the city’s public transport into four (4) exclusive public transport zones that were allocated to successful bidders through an open competitive bidding process. RFTC successfully won to operate two zones for a five year period.
RFTC was allocated to operate in Zone III which scover Kimironko, Kinyinya (Kagugu & Dutchwelle), Gisozi, Kacyiru, New Gakinjiro, Batsinda, Kibagabaga, Kimihurura, Nyarutarama and the trunk routes of this public transport zone also include the main routes connecting it to the CBD and to the Nyabugogo and Kimironko Taxi Parks.
Another zone that the federation operates is Zone IV which covers Kimisagara, Nyakabanda, Nyamirambo, Mageragere, Kigali, Gatsata, Karuruma, Jabana, Nyacyonga, and the trunk, inter and intra zone routes connecting it to the CBD and Nyabugogo Taxi Park.
The Kigali public transport zones are made up of trunk routes emanating from each zone heading towards the Central Business District (City centre) and Nyabugogo terminal, intra-zone routes within a given public transport zone and inter-zone routes connecting two different public transport zones.
City of Kigali and Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA) had tasked the contractors to ensure smart transport such that a passenger does not spend more
than five minutes on a bus stop during pick hours and ten minutes in between, compared to an estimate 30 to 40 minutes or even 1 hour on a bus stop previously.
“We have already met the standard. Actually in our zones, a passenger is served as he/she arrives,” says Col Dodo. Buses are now equipped with internet, to allow anyone aboard to keep chatting, instead of being stuck, you keep working on board.
We are also shifting to e-ticketing to go in line with the government program of transforming the country into a cashless economy, he adds. “We also want that the money a bus makes go straight to the owner. The program will not be limited to town, but upcountry roads will also have such technology.”
In the past, a car used to be controlled by the driver because he could collect fare and then decide how much to give the boss, how much to keep for himself. We are ending that because everything will transit to the car owner.
Investments in Taxi parks
When RFTC assumed responsibilities of managing taxi parks, it embarked on building smart taxi parks across the country. Currently they are have eight modern taxi parks including the newly inaugurated Rwf 923 million Gicumbi taxi park and Musanze in
Northern Province, Nyagatare, Kayonza and Rwamagana in Eastern Province, Muhanga in Southern Province which is under construction, Kabuga and Nyabugogo in Kigali City.
Col Dodo underlines that building the taxi park facility is a very big venture worth hundreds of millions which includes building parking lots, shops, passenger shelters and offices among others. Nonetheless, taxi parks are gradually increasing in number and create employment opportunities for the community and improve the co-operatives revenue.
RTFC also ensures security in all its operations which includes safety and security of passengers during their various travels and at the taxi parks, transport vehicles of members and all those that use their facilities.