Our transport sector is one of the sectors experiencing all sorts of bottlenecks, whose effects spill over to other activities and cripple national development.
It is gratifying that since the last quarter or so of the just ended year, some measures to improve the sector, in an attempt to provide better transport services, have been initiated or concluded. They are worth writing home about.
One of the initiatives was the launch of the passenger train services in Dar es Salaam, in October 2012, which is credited to the commitment of Transport Minister Harison Mwakyembe. The Minister mobilized modest resources and Railway Company workers, thus making it possible to utilize the infrastructure which had been idle and going to waste for years, as the infamous traffic jams in the country’s largest city continued to cause much inconvenience to city residents, and a huge financial loss to individuals and the government.
In early December, 2012, Minister Mwakyembe again delivered good news to Tanzanians, when he announced the resumption of passenger services on Ccentral Railway line which operates from Dar Es Salaam to Mwanza and Kigoma. The services were terminated way back in 2009, to the inconvenience of many customers.
The interesting aspect here is that the initiative worked, thanks to the workers determination to repair old wagons and some sections of the railway line. The Minister’s commitment to address some of their longstanding industrial problems proved a morale booster, and yielded good results.
Another transport-related event which has attracted public attention was the announcement, in December 2012, that a transport-trade master plan initiated by the governments of Tanzania and Japan was ready and awaited final endorsement for implementation to begin, any time from 2013. The essence of the plan is to develop all transport sub-sectors like roads, marine, aviation, pipelines, and railways, in a coordinated manner, taking trade aspects into consideration.
The above approach is a big departure from the traditional one of developing each subsector separately, and economists believe the initiative will boost trade and fast movement of people across the country. Currently there is a big World Bank supported road construction project, and some government projects in other transport sub-sectors, which will hopefully be mainstreamed into the new master plan. We hope this strategic approach will be another catalyst in national development.
The Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA), in an unprecedented move, came up with a directive announcing that commuter bus operators in Dar es Salaam were required to form transport companies, or get locked out of business, as no individual bus owners will be allowed to operate in the city, come June 2013.
In a statement to the media, the Authority gave a number of reasons behind the move, which include the assertion that services rendered by individual bus operators leave much to be desired. Workers in some of the buses owned by individuals are notorious for breaking traffic rules, overloading of passengers, failure to stick to their routes, mishandling passengers, and you name it.
In short, all this happens because bus owners are not in position to supervise their drivers and conductors. Commuter bus owners are obviously not impressed, as they consider the move a threat to their survival. But observers say the measure is a long overdue, on the grounds that a situation where there are over 6,000 buses belonging to about 3200 individual owners running passenger transport services in a modern city, is a recipe for chaos.
Then suddenly an airline by the name of “Fast jet” flew in town with a bang, set up shop, and announced that its passenger fare from Dar es Salaam to places like Mwanza would be as low as Sh40,000, when the bus fare for the same route is a bout Sh55,000. The promotional gimmick attracted many citizens, only to realize that although the fare is generally low, but few seats per trip are reserved for this unbelievable offer.
However, the fact that Fast Jet is likely to give ailing Air Tanzania and Precision Air a run for their money remains. Let us hope the transport sector will make good progress in 2013.
Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant(firstname.lastname@example.org