Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How UDA defies Sumatra’s directives on proper routing systems

THE Operation officer of the Dar es Salaam based public transport company popularly known as ‘Usafiri Dar es Salaam’ or by its acronym ‘UDA’ has said that , the commuter bus running its operation in the city does not need to follow routing systems as directed by the Surface and Marine Transport Authority (SUMATRA). for other commuter buses. Speaking in a telephone interview early this week in Dar es Salaam, Charles Makeja said that, UDA buses commuting in various city suburbs are being directed by its management to ply through a particular route whose arrangement is in accordance with the planning systems UDA had since before. Makenja confirmed to the Guardian when contacted for clarification following claims by some commuters who have lost trust with the once respected public transport company as most of them have the habit of shortening their routes an aspect which causes inconveniences during evening picking hours. His clarifications comes amid claims by one passenger who was caught by this writer last week on Wednesday night at Ubungo commuter bus stage pondering on his next move after he had been left stranded after being forced out of  one UDA bus on which he was travelling. The passenger who identified himself as Rashid Kisembo, a resident of Mbagala Maji Matitu in Temeke district exclusively narrated the sad story to this writer that he boarded UDA with the registration No. T161 CRC bus at Mwenge when he knew well that it was going to Buguruni and decided to enter hoping that once he arrives at Buguruni could have time to connect another one to his final destination point. But to his great dismay, he was surprised to see that the bus conductor told passengers to drop on their arrival at Ubungo claiming that was their destination point and also he added that the bus was not to proceed ahead and pretended it had encountered with some technical faults. Kisembo who had a bus ticket bearing serial NO. 236556 issued by the bus conductor was amazed to see its driver  changing its direction and headed for Kimara-Mbezi. He together with other passengers had no option except to disembark. Narrating the story Kisembo noted that, when he entered into a bus at Mwenge station, all passengers on board knew that it was traveling to Buguruni as this is a normal route for the bus. They were sure of that as most of them paid the fare and issued with a ticket. However, he continued that but all of a sudden passengers were greatly astonished to have been told the bus was to end its journey at Ubungo with pretence that it had encountered with some technical faults which could need urgent attention by mechanics. However on hearing that, passengers became so furious demanding for the explanation and how could it be and yet some of them had already paid the fare. He thought the operators could refund them and give them clarification a thing that never happened. The driver and the conductor of the bus were not in a position to explain to their passengers reasons for what had made them decide to change direction and instead forced them out insisting that was the end of the journey, he queried. He further noted that, there were severe exchange of abusive words between a driver and passengers who became furious demanding for the explanations, but were duly informed by the driver that UDA has no special routing systems instead they decide on their own which one should they follow.  Efforts by this writer to reach the authorities concerned at such unlikely time proved futile, but this writer managed to get contacts of the operation officer which are indicated on a passenger ticket and interviewed him the next day to get more clarification about the matter. 

In his defense, the operation officer said that, their bus drivers have the right to shorten their routes if need be as all these routes used by commuter buses in the city belong to UDA, a public transport company whose part of its stake is owned by the government. Citing the example of Mwenge-Ubungo-Buguruni route, Makenja noted that, the selection of the route is arranged by the management and thereafter it depends entirely on the discretion of the driver to decide to stop at a particular bus stage plying in a particular route mentioned and pack passengers at his own will. He further clarified that, suppose a bus destines at Ubungo from Mwenge, then the driver might decide to alight passengers and pack others and continue with the journey irrespective of the orders issued by the company’s management. Investigations by the Guardian over these clarifications can prove that, this is contrary to Sumatra’s directives which require every city transporter to follow their designated routes as arranged by the national authority which does not segregate between the public and private operators. Contacted for comment, Sumatra’s Manager of Corporate Communications David Mziray said in a telephone interview on Thursday this week that, his authority had long issued a directive to UDA management requiring them to fix a sign board of the routes on their buses through which they ply for identification but seemingly have done nothing. However, he also noted that all commuter routes in the city of Dar es Salaam belongs to UDA as stipulated in the laws governing city transportation, adding that, it shouldn’t be a reason for them to defy such orders. He said according to the law, UDA was supposed to arrange routes for other private city transporters as well as issuing transport licenses but it doesn’t mean that, they shouldn’t use such monopoly powers to operate the way they like an aspect that cause inconveniences to commuters in the city. Two months ago, the Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners Association (Darcoboa) and the  Association of Transporters in Dar es Salaam (UWADAR) issued a one month ultimatum to Sumatra demanding the Authority to formalise routes of operation for Shirika la Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA), similar to other commuter bus operators in the city. Darcoboa chairman Sabri Mabruk was quoted as saying that if Sumatra fails to set up regulated routes for UDA, the organisation would rub away all painted bus side lines that define specific routes for every bus and let them operate freely  ... take any route when you wish, just like UDA. He insisted that should Sumatra fail to avert the wrangle …and conform to their concerns by April 1st this year, they give themselves freedom to operate in an unregulated way. According to him, UDA is currently operating under a private company, the Simon Group and not the government as it was the case before, but if UDA drivers breach road regulations the traffic police remain silent, only dealing with daladala buses. Commenting on the matter, the executive chairman of the Simon Group who run UDA operation in the city Robert Kisena was recently quoted as saying that, their buses woulkd operate in formal routes as regulated by the responsible authority, urging for joint and peaceful dialogue among stakeholders in the transport sector operating in the city.

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