With Kigali City fast adopting cashless payments for public transport through the ‘tap and go’ smart cards, some passengers have expressed concerns over lack of accessibility of pay points in buses and anomalies in the transactions.
The passengers say that at times they credit their cards only to end up paying cash as some buses lack the swiping machines while others alleged that money was debited from their cards without them swiping the cards on the bus system.
One of the complainants, Jean Claude Kubwimana, a passenger from Nyarugenge District, told The New Times that he had ‘loaded’ his card with Rwf500 to travel to Nyamirambo from the city centre, only to find his balance depleted after one trip yet the fare for the trip is Rwf 320.
This means that Rwf180 was unaccounted for.
Other customers suspect that the debiting of money from their accounts probably happens accidentally while disembarking from the buses.
“It once happened to me, my card was in the wallet and I passed near the card reader while disembarking, the noise it made notified me that money had been deducted from my card. I have since made sure to keep my wallet away from the machine while disembarking to avoid reoccurrence of such incidents,” Lionel Iradukunda, who lives in Gikondo said.
Patrick Buchana, the Managing Director of AC Group, the firm contracted to issue the transport cards and in charge of the system, said the complaints had been mainly on the Kimisagara-Gatsata route and that they always refund the passengers whenever complaints are raised.
“The card readers are hyper sensitive and many people do not know how to tap the card correctly. We made it sensitive to avoid delays and long lines when passengers are getting on buses,” Buchana said.
He advised passengers to ensure that their smart cards avoid contact with the machines when disembarking to avoid re-occurrence of deduction of their money.
Passengers also expressed concerns over the absence of pay points in some of the buses which is a huge inconvenience for those who had budgeted and credited their cards well in advance.
This mostly affects students who have tight budgets and credit their cards on a weekly or monthly basis.
Buchana added that the challenge will not persist beyond this month, as all buses operating in the city will have a pay point to swipe for payments.
The smart cards have mitigated major challenges faced by public transport operators such as ‘stealing of money’ by conductors as well as long waiting periods for buses.
“Imagine four people giving Rwf5000 each to the conductor, to deducate Rwf 200 each. If he does not have change, he has to get off the bus and move around in search for change which causes delays. With the Tap and Go system, there are no such delays anymore which saves on time,” Buchana said.
Beyond promoting the government’s vision of cashless economy and smart city initiative, Buchana said the technology helps the government to get real time data on aspects of public transport to inform decision making.
This data enables authorities to plan on aspects such as policy regulations and maximum fare on various routes, he said.
“Since we started using this technology, we have seen significant reduction in accidents because buses are being monitored from a central control room. Fuel consumption is also monitored,” Buchana noted.
About 550 buses operating in the city were expected to be fitted with the smart card system by the end of this month. So far, about 300 buses have the systems installed and over 300,000 passengers issued with smart cards.
For passengers traveling from upcountry where the cards are not in use, AC Group has put up a system at the Nyabugogo and bus stations where travellers can access temporary cards to use while they are in the city by paying Rwf 500 which is refunded on returning the card.
According to Déo Muvunyi, the Director of Transport Planning and Licensing at Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Agency (RURA), apart from the electronic ticketing system that is used in upcountry buses, there are plans to target mini-buses.
“In this fiscal year, we plan to also introduce the ticketing system which is also electronic in different ways, including use of mobile money. We are working to find suppliers of such as system,” he said.