Proprietors of 18-seat minibuses have complained to the City of Kigali, saying the new routes they were given to operate on is a raw deal.
They argue that the City gave the lucrative routes to owners of buses and asked the taxis, better known as Twegerane, to ply newly established routes that have fewer passengers.
Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (Rura) and the City of Kigali in August awarded three firms a tender requiring each to operate in designated areas of four identified zones of Kigali road network, while the fifth zone was left open to sharing.
The firms include Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC) and Royal Express.
The new arrangement effectively phased the small taxis off the main roads to intra- and inter-zone routes heading to neighbourhoods that link to the main roads.
For instance, roads linking Gishushu and Kicukiro Centre through Inilak and Sonatubes, or a route that links Gaculiro to Kacyiru.
Other routes include Kimironko-Masizi, Kicukiro-Bwerankoli, etc.
A spot-check by this paper at Kimironko Taxi Park and Kicukiro on Wednesday confirmed that operators of Twegerane were struggling to get passengers.
At midday, a commotion broke up between drivers of Twegerane and those of buses over passengers.
The two groups nearly came to blows after the drivers of Twegerane, who were loading passengers to Zindiro, about 3 kilometres from the main road, were confronted bus operators and ordered to offload passengers.
In the ensuing commotion, the drivers and conductors of Twegerane accused the bus operators of bullying but the latter countered that taxi operators were ‘stealing’ their passengers.
“We are not making any money now; we were used to Kimironko/Remera-Nyabugogo road, but the new routes have no passengers to rely on,” complained Antoine Nkurunziza, who plies Kimironko-Masizi road up to a trading centre close to Kami military camp, in Gasabo District.
He said he hardly raises Rwf5,000 a day nowadays, yet he used to earn Rwf15,000 before the new transport system was launched.
Dry new routes
Another driver, Jean Marie Vianney Sogokuru, who plies Kimironko-Bumbogo-Rutunga road, also said it was difficult to get passengers on the new routes.
“You will hardly find any passenger on such routes,” he said.
Wednesday was a market day, Sogokuru said, but only two minibuses could find passengers at the suburb at 5am.
“We are thinking of starting up new businesses because transport is becoming unrealistic,” he said.
But the City of Kigali insists it is too early to complain, arguing that once passengers get used to the new routes, business will normalise for the Twegerane operators.
“Taxi drivers should be patient because it is too early to decide that a new route does not have passengers. People need to be aware, that actually, they will get taxis on new routes,” Jean Claude Rurangwa, the in-charge of public transport and safety management in the City of Kigali, said.
Dodo Twahirwa, whose cooperative Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives (RFTC) owns most of these small taxis, also dismissed the claims that some of his members are out of business, saying they have allocated vehicle routes depending on the volume of passengers on a given route.
He added that some of the new small taxis are still operating on the main roads.
The complaints come days after a team of inspectors of the City of Kigali which has been monitoring the operation of the authorised transport firms faulted drivers for not sticking to their designated routes and staying long at bus stops.
The drivers cited lack of passengers for abandoning the designated routes.
After presentation of the inspection report, the contracted companies agreed with CoK that the problem of dodging new routes was to be fixed straight away.
Promise to satisfy the market
Meanwhile, Nilla Muneza, the president of Royal express which plies Kicukiro-City hub/Nyabugogo routes said they have ordered for 10 more 60-seater buses worth Rwf1 billion from Yundai Kampala, Uganda. The fleet, he said, would arrive in the country in three weeks.