Kigalians weigh in on public transport ahead of fresh contract talks

Passengers queue as they wait for buses at the taxi park in downtown Kigali last month. / Emmanuel Kwizera

With the City of Kigali and regulators due to renew or revoke contracts of the three companies that operate public transport across the city, residents have weighed in calling for improved service delivery. 

City Hall and Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority last year extended by one year contracts for the three transport companies pending the completion of a study on their services and subsequent contract negotiations.

The firms are Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC), and Royal Express, with each dedicated to specific routes, or zones.

The companies first won the tender to operate public transport service in Kigali for five years back in August 2013.

Nonetheless, members of the public have decried sloppiness and poor services on the part of the bus companies, which has often resulted into shortages, long queues and in some cases overcrowding.

Authorities confirmed to this newspaper that the one year extension is due for expiry next month.

City of Kigali Mayor Marie-Chantal Rwakazina told Saturday Times that they had extended the contracts with the current service providers to allow room to fix challenges that were not catered for under the previous terms of reference.

She said City Hall was working closely with RURA and Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA) to develop new terms of service.

The mayor pointed out that some of the issues being looked into include the size of fleet for each firm, routes to be served, quality of service, and number of players.

“The bottom line is to improved convenience (of passengers),” she said.

However, it was not immediately clear whether new players could enter the market, or whether the number of service providers will be increased considering that new suburbs have emerged over the last six years.  

Theophile Ntiyitegeka, a regular user of public buses, said there are many routes that remain underserved, leaving locals with no option but to use taxi-motos which are more expensive, or walk long distances.

“I stay in Gasanze (in Gasabo District) and we struggle to get a bus on time…we end up relying on motos which are more expensive,” he said, adding that taxi-moto riders charge about Rwf800 for a distance  for which you would pay between  Rwf250-Rwf300 on a bus.

Niyitegeka said he hopes authorities will compel bus companies to ensure they have enough fleet to fully cater for their assigned routes, before being awarded with the contract.

Patrick Manzi, a Gisozi resident, said there is need to ensure that someone is able to get a bus in note later than 10 minutes at every bus stop.

“Every day I spend 30 to 50 minutes waiting for a bus at a bus stop, which I think is too much and unfair,” she said.

Louis Aimé Uwimana said one of the issues that should be addressed are the number of times public buses, especially 35-seater buses, stop along their way.

“Sometimes people are standing and when the bus keeps stopping, even a trip from Nyabugogo-Kimironko becomes very tiresome,” he said.

Lydia Iradukunda, from Kacyiru, said there has been some improvement in service delivery but hastily added that there are still long queues where people wait for the next bus for even more than an hour.

“I board a bus every day from Kacyiru to town (Central Business District) and back, they added us another bus which has brought down the time we usually spent waiting for a bus but when I am coming back home I normally observe passengers, especially those heading to  Kagugu and Kimironko in long queues” she said.

Mariam Asiimwe, who lives in Kanombe, Kicukiro District, said authroities need to compel bus companies to operate until late.

“In Kanombe we are served by KBS but they always stop working at 10:30p.m, meaning that whoever travels beyond that time cannot find a bus, there is need to extend working hours, or at least dedicate at least two buses to work until late,” he said.

Long queues are particularly experienced during peak hours in the morning and evening.

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