RURA strengthens regulations to improve efficiency in transport sector

In a bid to continuously improve transport operations in the country the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) is in the process of adjusting regulations to encourage necessary innovations corresponding to available investment opportunities as well as ensuring improved service delivery.

Transport sub-sectors which RURA licenses and regulates in Rwanda include water transport services, road transport in public buses, school buses and taxi cabs, trucks as well as motorcycles taxis.

According to Engineer Emmanuel Asaba Katabarwa, the head of transport regulation department at RURA, the majority of the public transport involves; inter-city public transport services within and around Kigali city, town services, cross border public transport services.

It is in this context that RURA says the sector requires constant review of regulations, to create favorable environment for investors for innovation as well as untapped opportunities which will ensure fair competition and better service delivery to consumers.

“The purpose of such regulations is to identify service providers and give them behavioral guidelines in their operations. This ensures standards and efficient tools of transport regulations for the safety of passengers,” he said.

1. Water-ways transport regulations and investment opportunities

According to Katabarwa, RURA regulates water transport and licenses the investors.

“Investors from water-ways transport sector must also get licenses from us and there are regulation s and requirements to avoid disorder to ensure those who invest get profit from their investment but also serving passengers well. We need more investors to bring modern and fast ships with strong communication systems and speed and guaranteed safety,” he said.

He said that when an investor acquires an operating authorization, RURA always carries advocacy to solve any issues they might face.

 “We are reviewing regulations to ensure water transport is efficient and that facilities that investors need are increased. We need that such investors also look at made-in –Rwanda strategy while seeking to invest in modern ships with enough ICT facilities to even motivate tourists. For instance such modern boats should have comfort and be fast,” he said.

He noted that investors are necessary to develop efficient transport in locations such as Lake Kivu where there is lots of movement between DRC and Rwanda with most of them involved in trade.

The official explained that an operator has to acquire a specific driving permit for boats that transport people and another permit for goods.

“Investment in bigger boats of about 40 tonnes is required to transport people or goods. I,” he noted.

The government is going to construct five ports on Lake Kivu this year, which RURA says investors should seize as an opportunities.

“RURA, RDB, RTDA are working together to ensure the projects are implemented on lakes such as Kivu lake where ports will be built. Officials have been visiting the sites where the ports will be constructed,” he added.

The ports will be constructed under the support of Trademark East Africa (TMEA).

There will be three major ports with capacity of about 1.5 million passengers per year in 2020, projected to reach 2.8 million by 2036, while a smaller one in Karongi will start with a capacity of about 300,000 passengers per year by 2020 and 400,000 passengers by 2036.

The port maximum cargo handling capacity is 580,000 tonnes, while the minimum is 270,000 tonnes

Investors will be soon required to comply with revised regulations by RURA while acquiring licenses for operations and when they are in operations, Katabarwa said.

According to Fabrice Barisanga, the RTDA manager for planning and research, the first phase of Lake Kivu water transport project is set to start later this year.

The Rwf23 billion and is expected to be completed by 2020 with ports connecting Rubavu, Karongi , Rutsiro and Rusizi districts to facilitate cross border trade with DRC which is Rwanda’s largest regional trading partner at about 79.7 per cent of the export market.

“This project is also expected to boost tourism and hospitality sectors as it will improve accessibility of key tourist sites and activities, like gorilla trekking in Volcano National Park,” he said in an interview.

An integral economic and technical viability analysis on developing inland water ways transport on River Akagera from Kagitumba (Rwanda) to Lake Victoria is also ongoing to boost water transport.

2. Regulations in public transport, motivation for investors

Katabarwa said that 6 years ago, public transport in Kigali was characterized by disorder, long staying on queues by passengers and misbehavior by some drivers.

 “One of the strategies to eliminate the disorder, was dividing Kigali into four transport zones. The zones were given to public transport companies with each zone getting its own operating company,” he said

The division of zones, he said, helps to inspect and track transport companies  to hold each company accountable for the transport zone they operates  which ensures rapid operations.

“After setting up the zones, the next step was road rehabilitation in Kigali city. We increased routes from 41 to 87 routes while other routes were extended to reduce the last mile of the passenger. Regulations ensure viability of the sector to protect investors,” Katabarwa said.

RURA says the restructuring has also been reducing un-roadworthy and smaller cars that increase congestion.

 “Now we wish to have big cars as other developed cities to transport passengers in a comfortable manner and reducing delays on queues” he noted

Katabarwa said that investors are recommended to buy new and bigger cars which can transport a large number of passengers at once.

“We advocated for tax reduction where tax is currently at Zero from 25% in the past as they only pay VAT for buses carrying 50 and above passengers. Those carrying 30 but less than 50 passengers pay 10 per cent import tax. This motivates investors so that we can get new modern buses,” he said.

To ensure reliability of transport services RURA set up specific hours for operating starting from 5:00 am until 23:00 pm to have predictable timelines.

According to, Sam Byaruhanga  the Executive Secretary for  Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives (RFTC),  they are increasing the number of the big buses on the principle routes such as the Kimironko-city centre, Masaka-Kabuga  to the City Centre among others adding that they recently started by importing 20 buses with capacity to carry at least 60 passengers to adequately serve the people.

He said the buses will be fitted with cameras inside to monitor movement and avoid excess passengers by the drivers.

“The cameras will help us effectively monitor operations, drivers’ behaviors and avert cheating by ensuring all passengers are accounted for which will definitely increase revenue,” he said adding that the other role the cameras will play is to ensure the safety of the passengers.

3. Encouraging ICT solutions in public transport

Katabarwa said that the new cashless payment system, TAP&GO is a milestone investment that responded to RURA concerns and regulations for rapid and safe services by reducing income embezzlement and delays at queues for passengers.

“It does not only increase reliability, the technology facilitates an investor who can be assured returns as income patterns are predictable. Today an investor is secure as they know fares will go directly to his bank account without passing through drivers’ hands,” he said.

According to AC Group, the firm that operates the smart card payment system, the system looks at increasing customer base by 60 per cent in 2018 upcoming projects.

The number of commuters using Tap&Go cards has grown significantly from 300,000 in 2016 to 1.2 million subscribers as of the end of 2017.

So far about 25 per cent of revenues that were previously being lost in the hands of conductors, drivers and accountants under the old fare payment system had been reduced.

The firm is working to revise and improve the cards  to introduce a  new mobile application will allow clients help recover funds ‘mistakenly’ lost when they accidentally swipe their cards which will be done by producing cards that have the personal details of owners registered using national IDs.

For reliability, RURA calls for sustainable investment in systems to enable investors monitor operations using ICT and control rooms in monitoring buses in the whole city to avoid any misconduct that could affect the company and passengers.

“We do not yet have such systems for bus management .This is an opportunity for any investor. Investing in transport sector is not only buying buses but today we also look at innovations based on ICT applications in easing transport services and generating profits for both passengers and investors,” he noted.

Another opportunity for investors basing on the challenges, he added, is passenger information systems which is done in most of developed countries.

This means enabling passengers check using internet on transport availability before going to the bus station to wait for bus, a passenger should be able to get information of bus arrival to the nearest stop so as to save on waiting time.

“Our passengers have not such access today because those systems are not available. We are ready to welcome whoever will come with a project to establish passenger information system. We need investors to look into the challenges as opportunities for investment” he said.

4. Ensuring smart Taxi cabs

RURA says previously it was was difficult to figure out all the drivers of taxi and some of them used to have their cars were unmarked and others without taxi-meters.

Today, according to Katabarwa, most of them have driving licenses.

“A passenger now trusts the driver to take them   to their destination. We are encouraging new way in which clients can pay with fair meter. We are working with investors to seek ways of finding an efficient ICT based-taxi meter where a passenger will track all the taxis available in the area and chose the nearest one to them by using the innovation to call the driver. This is called “Taxi airing services,”he said.

He noted that all initiatives to improve service delivery in transport need investments based on ICT innovation such as paying fares and networking system that coordinate passengers from different places and share information.

5. Revamping internet project in public transport

Katabarwa said that the internet was installed in all buses to encourage Rwandans use the internet but the implementation experienced challenges that caused inconvenience for internet users in buses.

“In fact, what was revealed is that the tools used for internet connectivity were not convenient to Kigali city environment. Some of them are damaged due to the shaking of buses; and other tools were blocked by conductors or damaged by water at carwashes,” said Katabarwa.

We sat together with technicians and various entities and we realized that there is a need to seek effective “routers” that can guarantee internet and resist from that damaging incidences.

“The routers that we had were no as sophisticated that they could not resist the weather conditions.  We are now looking for a routers which can resist such weather conditions. Such tools are being tested and shall be introduced in the coming days in all buses to avail internet to passengers,” he said.

He said that with bus internet connectivity will also help investors in bus management systems, phone users and those who need to advertise online in the buses.

Motorcycle Transport

The motorcycle transport is another sector that came to support buses, according to Katabarwa, but the sector is still facing a number of challenges such as discipline and safety in terms of theft.

He however said that some have been operating smartly by adopting ICT based applications which foster services delivery.

These include meters that reduce bargaining between the driver and the passenger.

The move also supports government initiative of going cashless economy where tap and pay card will be for motorcycle taxi payment. Stakeholders will look into how it could be used to pay other services.

Katabarwa said that ICT for motorcycles should be coupled with the GPS that will help in tracking the place where the motorcyclist is located to be able to track misconduct.

“We shall also be having tools to measure over speeding and location of motors which will assist us in changing behaviors of motorcyclists. Just like for the taxi cab, whoever needs a moto will be able to call it using the same technology,” he added.

Some city motorcycle riders do not have licenses and others have forged ones, but Katabarwa said that motorcyclists will no longer be obliged to have physical documents as all these services will be done electronically to be easy for inspectors to eliminate the forging.

 “We are working to improve on the discipline and encourage investors with such innovations to work with them. Currently we have Yego Moto that has got the license from RURA and more are looking for such licenses to work with motorcyclists,” he added.

 we are encouraging investors to come and invest in all transport areas in Rwanda regardless of the country they come from .There are many ways of investing in transport from increasing vehicles, ICT applications for the sector and also bringing vehicles that are environmental-friendly.

For new projects or innovation RURA helps in setting its regulatory framework and start operations, he added.

 

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