Dar es Salaam’s notorious traffic snarl-ups could be a thing of the past following the launch of a mass rapid transit service for the city’s five million residents.
The dilapidated privately owned mini-buses and vans, known as daladala, will be relegated to the outskirts of the commercial city, as the fleet of Chinese-built Golden Dragon buses takes over the city’s major streets and trunk roads.
Specially built for urban trips, the buses accommodate sitting and standing passengers, with those who are standing supporting themselves by holding straps hanging from a rail.
The service, which is expected to serve more than 300,000 passengers a day, is equipped with 39 buses, each 18 metres long with a capacity of 150 passengers, and 101 others, 12 metres long, carrying 80 passengers each. They run on special lanes built in the middle of normal roads, converging in the central business district.
The buses started operating in the city on trial basis last week, offering free rides to commuters. Once the trial period ends, commuters will pay between Tsh400 ($0.2) and Tsh800 ($0.4) on feeder and trunk routes respectively, while students will pay Tsh200 (0.1). These are similar to the rates charged by the daladala.
The new service is operated by Usafiri Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (UDA-RT), and overseen by transport watchdog Surface and Marine Transport regulatory authority (Sumatra).
According to Sumatra CEO Gillaird Ngewe, Bus Rapid Transit commuter buses will operate from the outskirts to the central business district.
Due to their length and condition of Dar es Salaam’s ordinary feeder roads — most of them are unpaved — the BRT buses are not able to ply ordinary roads.
According to Eng John Shauri, UDA-RT director of operations and infrastructure management, the first phase of the project, which involved infrastructure construction, was funded by the World Bank at Tsh385 billion ($180 million).
Nearly 25km of special roads connecting the suburbs to the CBD were completed in the first phase.
Mr Shauri said design and estimates for the second and third phase are complete, but actual costs will be determined after getting a quotation from the contractor.
The project has six phases; upon completion in 2035, up to 90 per cent of Dar es Salaam residents will enjoy the BRT service.
The project will see parking lots constructed at all major entry points to the city — Mwenge in the north, Ubungo in the west and Kimara farther west, where motorists can park their vehicles in secure pay parking bays before they take the buses to the city centre.
Marjorie Mazimbwe, who used the BRT bus from Kimara to the city centre, said the BRT buses have saved the people from the “mess” of the daladala and will take public transport to a new level.
UDA-RT was conceived as a joint venture between the central government, the Dar es Salaam City Council (DCC) and the private company Simon Group. The project will however run without the city fathers at the helm after the DCC opted out and withdrew its shares following a row over ownership of the government’s stake in Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA) — a joint venture partner in the project.
Treasury Registrar Lawrence Mafuru recently confirmed that DCC ownership has officially ceased following Simon Group making a payment for 51 per cent shares in the company, thus acquiring DCC shares. The central government controls the remaining 49 per cent.
On September 30, 2015, the board of directors of African Development Bank (AfDB) approved two loans totalling $141.71 million to finance the second phase of the project to run the modern buses.
The $97.42 million loan came from the AfDB market window, and the $44.29 million loan from the Africa Growing Together Fund (AGTF).
At the beginning of the project, Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (Dart) CEO Asteria Mlambo said the total cost was $290 million.
In December 2015, Dart executive officer Asteria Mlambo was suspended over procurement irregularities.
The Minister of State in the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) George Simbachawene appointed Ronald Lwakatare as the new person in charge of Dart.
In April last year, Dart signed a two-year agreement with Usafiri Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit Company to help run the BRT project on an interim basis, but the project could not start at that time due to a legal wrangle over the ownership of UDA stakes between Simon Group and Dar es Salaam City Council.
Last week, Mr Simbachawene told parliament in Dodoma that the government had finally secured its 49 per cent stake in UDA after Simon Group acquired UDA shares, with the company retaining the remaining 51 per cent.
Sumatra estimates that traffic congestion costs the nation up to Tsh411 billion ($190 million) annually in terms of lost working hours and extra fuel consumption.
Traffic jams, according to a Confederation of Tanzania Industries study, waste 20 per cent of annual business profits. Estimates made by Dart in 2010 showed that about Tsh4 billion ($2.5 million) was lost daily in the city in terms of decreased productivity, wasted fuel and late delivery of goods due to traffic jams.