Cross-border bus companies plan to withdraw their fleet citing mounting losses incurred due to the ongoing Rwanda-Uganda border crisis.
The affected are operators plying the Kigali-Kampala, and Kigali-Nairobi via Kampala routes who have been contending with losses due to fewer passengers two months since the travel restrictions at the border.
Many, whose clients were mainly Rwandans travelling to Uganda for business, had kept the fleet on the road hoping that it was a temporary problem. However, Rwanda Today learnt that despite many having reduced their trips, it was difficult to get their business back to profitability.
The bus companies have suspended a number of fleet or moved them to other routes. Trinity Express, a Kigali-based bus company with over 10 buses on the Kigali-Kampala route only deployed one bus upon availability of passengers who must be foreign nationals.
“The loss is obvious, because we are talking of a route where we did more than 20 trips a day,” said Trinity Express manager Twahirwa Dodo.
Simba Coach, which initially plied the Kigali-Nairobi route via Kampala suspended three of its seven bus fleet on the route, but changed its route to now pass through Tanzania so it could attract a growing clientele of Rwandan business people who connect to Kampala through Kisumu in Kenya.
Jeremie Barutwanayo, a Simba Coach driver said the company moved three buses to the Nairobi-Sudan route.
He added that even with the route change, Simba Coach was still doing three trips per week as opposed to daily journeys. This is partly because the ticket price to Nairobi increased to Rwf50,000 from the usual Rwf27,000 owing to additional mileage.
This saw Rwandan passengers connecting to Kampala through Kisumu incur an additional Rwf20,000 on their fare.
“Another limitation is that we only allow travellers with passports or Laissez-passer, unlike before when anyone with an ID could travel,” said Mr Barutwanayo.
For the other operators plying the border routes to or through Uganda like Mash Poa, Modern Coast and Jaguar Express, they are limited to only carrying foreigners.
They have also had to cancel or reduce frequency of travels, leaving a section of their fleet idle.