Another batch of 100 new buses is being offloaded in Durban and will soon arrive to boost the Zupco fleet in time for the festive season while the company works on its next step in rail services — the train between Harare and Norton.
The new batch, twice the size of most of the regular deliveries of new buses, will help Zupco provide better intercity services, now allowed after the Covid-19 lockdown was relaxed from Level Four to Level Two, as well as boost urban services. This comes at a time when law enforcement agents are battling with mushikashika, illegal transporters and unregistered vehicles who are carrying travellers at undesignated points creating chaos and unnecessary traffic jams.
Recently, President Mnangagwa commissioned a batch of 50 Golden Dragon Zupco buses from China which were distributed in areas that were hit by transport challenges across the country. While the bus fleet is being built up with regular deliveries, Zupco is also working on building up its rail service, done in conjunction with National Railways of Zimbabwe.
Suburban rail services at rush hours are now operating in Harare, Gweru and Bulawayo, but Zupco is already looking at extending these services and upgrading the rolling stock. The extension should soon see a rail service to Norton, stopping at intermediate points between Harare and the town, while the first fruits of the upgrade has seen the lights now working in the carriages on the Mufakose train and being reinstalled in the carriages used by the Ruwa and Tynwald trains.
The carriages will also be painted to give them a new look and the leaking roofs of some coaches will be sealed. Zupco acting chief executive Mr Everisto Mudangwa said the buses were in Durban.
“We are still waiting for the buses to be offloaded at the Durban port then they will be transported to Zimbabwe,” he said.
“On the trains, electricity has been put on the Mufakose train and on other trains it is work in progress. We are working on revamping all the trains before the start of the rainy season but it does not happen overnight, it takes time.”
Over the last 12 months, Government has imported more than 450 buses from China not only boosting the Zupco fleet, but with all of one type has started the process of standardising models, easing maintenance and allowing good stocks of spares.
The passenger rail services are expected to be rolled over to all cities across the country to decongest roads and ensure safe commuting for travellers.
The move falls under the Government’s priority for a decent, adequate and efficient public transport system after the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee chaired by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo to look into decongesting roads in cities, with decent public transport seen as an obvious way of doing this.
Police recently said travellers who board buses, kombis and mushikashika not registered under the Zupco franchise risk fines of $2 000 each as the police intensifies operations against errant bus, commuter omnibus and private car operators who continue defying Covid-19 regulations. Commuters attributed the boarding of unregistered buses, kombis and mushikashika which are operating illegally to lack of Zupco buses and kombis across the country.
Besides the rail service, Zupco is on a drive to recruit more franchise holders and has invited all owners of roadworthy buses and kombis to join the fleet and the transport company is working with the police to see how buses can be given priority at peak hours so as to speed up turnaround times.