SENATE - The Extraordinary session of the Parliamentary Chamber of Senate on Thursday resolved to summon the Minister in charge of transport to explain problems in public transport in the country. Transport falls under the docket of the Ministry on Infrastructure.
The Senators took the unanimous decision following a report on the current state of public transport in the country presented by the Senate Committee on the Economy and Finance.
The decision by the Senators to call the minister was adopted after it was realised that public transport has continued to be a major concern in the country.
They also expressed dissatisfaction with the Report by the committee saying it did not fully exhaust the problems within the public transport sector.
The Senators want the minister to explain whether there are plans to address the current crisis in the public transportation sector, especially the problem of few passenger service vehicles which are overwhelmed by huge number of commuters.
They cited public transport in and around Kigali City where there are few commuter taxis and buses to ferry people to and from work during the peak hours in the morning and the evening, leaving many people stranded by the roadside.
Members of the Upper Chamber expressed concern over the problem which they said was going out of hand and ‘needed immediate attention.’
The session that was presided over by Senate president Vincent Biruta also noted that there are few vehicles plying dirt roads going to different upcountry destinations compared to those operating on tarmac roads.
Presenting the findings of the committee, the Chairperson Speciose Ayinkamiye said that it was established that the number of commuter vehicles cannot match the rate at which the population is growing, as passengers have doubled yet the number of vehicles remains almost constant.
She added that the problem largely stems from some of the policies put in place by city authorities such as allowing only Left Hand Drive Vehicles and buses, which led to some changes and shortages, though this is a temporary problem.
Ayinkamiye said that they carried out consultations with transport companies including ONATRACOM (the national transport utility), public commuter operators’ association (ATRACO) and other operators to find out the root cause of the problem and how it can be overcome.
She informed the Senate that most owners of passenger service vehicles they talked to complain about the state of unpaved roads going to upcountry places which are in bad shape and therefore avoided by car owners citing high maintenance costs of vehicles.
“Motorists tend to dodge unpaved roads because they make losses, opting to operate on paved roads. This is why we experience shortages of vehicles going to different upcountry areas,” she said, reading from the report.
The report also revealed frustration by vehicle owners over ATRACO which they alleged charges different fees on taxi operations.
Some of the daily charges which they referred to as ‘outrageous’ include the Rwf 200 to support ATRACO’s football club, Rwf 500 for the driver’s medical insurance and the 1000 Rwf for parking.
She also attributed the overflow of people in the morning and evenings to the settlement patterns in Kigali where many people have to commute to town in the morning and back home in evening, a problem which will only be solved when the Kigali Master Plan is completed.
The Senators also hinted at investigating the activities of ONATRACOM which up to now are still haunted by claims of corruption and mismanagement of public funds.
Senate President Biruta cited the existence of many authorities who come up with different policies for the transport sector which he said might bring confusion.
He urged Senators to come up with a report containing the different queries raised which they will send to the government so that an official can be called to address them.