With demand for transport services expected to surge during the festive season, the public transport operators will be under pressure to deliver services despite limited fleet distribution and capacity.
The Christmas period will see a surge in the number of people travelling upcountry and cross-border routes.
Some operators are already recording an increase in bookings a week before Christmas, a trend they expect to continue until mid-January when the back-to-school period starts.
“We are organising ourselves to ensure we cope with the high demand. We will add another seven Coaster buses to our fleet,” said Dominique Habinshuti who works with Kigali Coach Express, which plies the Kigali-Musanze-Rubavu route. The transport company has 43 vehicles.
The biggest worry for travellers is lacking transport as has been the case in the past two years when operators struggled to handle the surge in demand.
Latest statistics by Rwanda Utilities regulatory authority (RURA) show the country had more than 47 licensed public transport companies as at June, with more than 4,011 vehicles.
The fleet numbers increased by 707 vehicles from 3,304 last year due to companies like Different Express, Fidelity and Kivu Belt — all upcountry operators — increasing their fleet.
Different Express increased its fleet from six to 20 vehicles; Fidelity Express currently operates 23 vehicles from 10 last year while Kivu Belt Express increased its fleet from eight to 24 vehicles.
Statistics from RURA show licensed cross-border transport companies increased their fleet to 76 vehicles from 66 last year.
Operators said the increase in fleet will help avert a potential transport shortage on urban and paved national roads where most private operators have their routes.
Eric Ruhamiriza, the chairperson of the public transport owners’ association said traffic on provincial rural routes and a few unpaved roads was the only concern for the Rwanda Interlink Transport Company (RITCO) Ltd, a public-private transport company.
“This year, RITCO significantly increased its fleet, so we don’t anticipate facing a shortage of vehicles as was the case in the past. What is left now is for operators to organise themselves and prepare to deploy necessary interventions,” said Mr Ruhamiriza.
In March, RITCO deployed over 50 56-seater vehicles for upcountry routes together with those operated by ONATRACOM, a state-run transport company that RITCO replaced after it collapsed. However, RITCO is yet to deploy vehicles to all routes previously served by ONATRACOM.