Editorial: Strict regulation key to fixing public transport woes

The State Minister for Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, has put Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC) on the spot over harsh working conditions it has subjected its drivers to.

The State Minister for Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, has put Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC) on the spot over harsh working conditions it has subjected its drivers to.

One of them is a requirement for each of the drivers of the public buses to ferry a minimum of 800 passengers a day, failure of which the employer deducts a fraction of their salary.

This, the minister says, has resulted into unethical and dangerous conduct on the part of the drivers, including jamming of speed governors so as to remove the cap on speed, thereby endangering the lives of passengers and their own.

Thanks to the tough working conditions, RFTC drivers are also accused of spending too much time parked at bus stops, which delays passengers and affects business.

Four years ago, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) and the City of Kigali awarded three public transport companies, including Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC), and Royal Express, exclusive rights to operate public transport in the city.

The move, officials said, was aimed at streamlining and gradually modernise the public transport sector.

Nonetheless, a litany of problems has since dogged the sector. They range from long queues at bus parks and stops during peak hours, and shortage of public buses in between peak hours, to overcrowded buses and indiscipline on the part of the drivers.

Now, in light of the revelations related to the working conditions of the drivers, it’s not rocket science to understand why some of these problems have persisted.

The revelations amount to an indictment on the regulators. Considering the sensitive nature of the services offered by these transport companies, RURA should be closely monitoring the goings on in the sector on a daily basis, and move fast to act in light of such questionable activities to salvage the situation.

RFTC management has rejected the allegations even as many drivers have separately confirmed the same. The ball is now in the regulators’ court. They need to act to not only save life and bring about sanity on our roads but also to improve the public sector and welfare of public passenger bus drivers.

The regulators need to deploy its officers on the roads to monitor how these bus companies are implementing their contract and any breach must not go unpunished.

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