Kigali’s public transport operators are bracing for drastic reforms in the coming months, which are expected to impose stricter regulations and requirements.
State Minister for Transport Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye told Rwanda Today that the government wants to determine the type of vehicles allowed in the public transport service, their level of maintenance, comfort and cleanliness, and include systems to monitor users’ social behaviour such as cameras. The reforms also include redesigning the current route system based on demand.
The reforms, which are still under formulation are understood to have stopped the route bidding process in Kigali City after the five-year contracts for existing operators came to an end early this year.
Mr Uwihanganye said they wanted the reforms introduced before the bidding process for new operators took place. However, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) extended contracts for the operators by another 12 months citing the need for a study to inform the reforms.
“The new regulations and some of the reforms require legal instruments to support them which were not yet done, and that’s why we extended the contracts for the current operators,” said Mr Uwihanganye.
Rura said that the public transport sector faced reliability challenges even after operators expanded their fleets to existing and new routes.
RURA’s head of transport department, Emmanuel Katabarwa, said unlike in 2013 when route tendering was introduced, the new reforms would be pegged on a joint study by Rwanda transport development agency and the Ministry of Infrastructure.
The study looked at the business model of the public transport sector, examining every item that contributes to the costing of public transport, as well as identifying the kind of investment the government needs to make in order for public transport to work for both passengers and operators.
Operators had invested heavily in 25-32-seaters commonly known as coasters from minibuses as a requirement for a five-year contract.
Many will have to upgrade their fleet when the new regulations — which prioritise 60-seater smart vehicles with modern features — come into effect in the next few months.
Operators say the new reforms will require them to inject more investments to cope with increased pressure to meet the new demands.
However minister Uwihanganye said they made sure that all the players were part of the restructuring process and the reforms would not hurt them. He added that the government would introduce dedicated bus lanes and corridors.