Bus owners call for fares hike amid Covid woes

Thursday July 29 2021
Bus pic
By Hellen Nachilongo

Dar es Salaam. Commuter bus operators are now asking for an adjustment in fares so that they can operate profitably.

This comes at a time when the government is urging operators to avoid crowding in public buses as a measure to prevent further spread of the viral Covid-19 pandemic.

Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners Association (Darcoboa) chairman Kisimat Jaffar told The Citizen yesterday that, after deliberating on the role of commuter bus operators in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, they believe they really need to reduce the number of passengers boarding their vehicles all the time.

The challenge, however, is that the need to do so comes at a time when fuel prices have risen sharply, thus rendering the transport business unprofitable. This is especially when buses must not carry more passengers than the number of seats in the bus.

Fuel prices have gone up by 58 percent during the past 12 months due to a rise in global demand and increasing local taxes and levies.

Dar es Salaam motorists are currently paying Sh2,405 per litre of petrol, up from Sh1,520 in June last year, available data show.

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“Despite the coronavirus pandemic, operating at the ‘level seat’ mode renders the business unprofitable because fuel prices have gone up. In a situation like this, how do you expect us to continue with the business?” he posed.

He said operators have also requested the government - through the Dar es Salaam RC - to allow a few commuters to stand up in buses to help them make some profit.

“Recently, the government announced that ongoing measures to curtail the coronavirus spread will be undertaken in such a manner that it will not adversely impact economic activities.

“Directing us not to allow commuters to stand without adjusting bus fares will affect our businesses,” he said, insisting that without fare increases, they would have to park their buses until the situation improves.

In the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in Tanzania in March last year, fuel prices were about Sh800/litre compared to what they are today, adding that this was why they were able to operate buses at ‘level seat’.

“Unfortunately, the loss on fare collection was high despite fuel price being favourable - unlike now when the prices are high,” he said, exuding optimism that the government will adjust the bus fares to enable them to operate in a conducive environment.

Until yesterday, Land Transport Regulatory Authority (Latra) was conducting meetings with transport operators, including Udart to see how best to implement the directive of reducing crowing in transport facilities, the director of road and transport Mr Johansen Kahatano told The Citizen yesterday.