The Government has embarked on a number of projects aimed at resolving the problems affecting the public transport sector in the country.
The revelation was made by the Minister of Infrastructure, Linda Bihire, under whose docket the sector falls, while appearing before the Senate Upper Chamber of Parliament to explain the current crisis within the sector.
Bihire told the Senators that the government has earmarked key areas for short term and long term interventions in a bid to overcome the shortfalls experienced within the public transport sector especially in the City of Kigali, which have since become an issue of great concern.
Earlier this year, the Senate resolved to summon the minister over increased public uproar over the deteriorating state of public transport within the City of Kigali as a result of shortage of Passenger Service Vehicles (PSV’s) plying city roads and congestion at bus stops.
The Extra Ordinary session which sat in January was also irked by a report containing the findings of the Senate Committee on Transport which revealed that public transport in the city is poorly managed, with concerned authorities pointing a finger of blame at each other.
Also in the report was the alarming shortage of PSV’s to ferry people to and from the city especially in the morning and evening rush hours, leaving thousands of passengers stranded by the roadside.
The Senators were of the view that the minister was the only person in position to explain the problem of poor infrastructure especially in the provinces leading to transport operators shunning those destinations.
On congestion, the minister told the lawmakers that the ministry and Kigali City Council (KCC) have already identified a number of action areas, including setting up several taxi parks within the city centre and expanding city roads to make them wider to handle heavy traffic.
She cited the taxi park ATRACO is set to construct behind Rubangura’s building which is expected to address the traffic congestion in the area.
“We have a plan of upgrading 36km of some of the busiest roads within the city centre to make them wider-providing for a third lane to cater for public commuters while focus will also be put on improving on rural roads,” said Bihire.
She told members of the press that the project to improve roads within Kigali City also catered for by the Kigali Master Plan will begin in 2 months time and will cost the Government over US $34m.
Despite Many challenges, especially in the funding, the minister told Senators that the Ministry has formulated a Transport Sector Policy that will mark out the anomalies the sector is faced with.
The Sector Policy formulated by MININFRA contains the country’s proposed road network but the Ministry is still gathering funds to implement it.
“The government is doing all it can though challenges are still many especially in the area of finances but we are focussed on revamping the whole sector” added Bihire.
On the shortage of PSV’s, Bihire admitted that the problem is an major one considering that Rwanda, like other countries in the world which use Left Hand Drive (LHD) vehicles experiences shortages because they tend to be more expensive than Right Hand Drive (RHD) ones.
She however noted that studies are being done to see whether Rwanda could swap to RHD’s like the rest of East Africa but added that would be in the long run because a number of aspects, that also require a lot of money would have to be put in mind first.
She noted that Rwanda swapping to RHD vehicles would quickly increase the number of commuters sold cheaply in Uganda, Dubai and Japan compared to LHDs. She however added that a study to find out the consequences would first be carried out.
She promised lawmakers that her ministry will look into the working relationship between KCC and transport operators such as ATRACO, while Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) will also come in to regulate the sector.
Among other things, stickers indicating the fares and emergency numbers will be put in all commuter taxis and buses to protect the public from exploitation.
The session chaired by the President of the Senate, Vincent Biruta, called on the minister to act quickly because the situation was getting out of hand.
Biruta urged the 26-member house to come up with recommendations to be forwarded to the ministry for action.