THE return of mass transport system introduced by the Government this week is exactly what the doctor ordered if we go by the reaction of the commuters.
On Monday, the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) co-ordinated conventional buses in ferrying commuters in and around Harare.
The introduction of mass public transport was a service urbanites have yearned for as commuter omnibus operators preyed on passengers, forcing them to pay through the nose.
Commuters desperately sought an alternative.
The deregulation of the urban transport system in 1992 brought with it a free-for-all transport system that was not only expensive but also routinely haphazard.
What is the rationale for the omnibus operators to charge commuters $5 for a distance conventional buses are now charging $1?
What a heartless lot! These fares were randomly raised for any flimsy reason the operators or their crew could come up with.
It was a torrid time for the commuter.
It seems the kombi owners’ mischief was not limited only to punishing commuters.
We also have strong suspicions that some of these commuter omnibus operators colluded with regime change proponents when called upon.
That is if we are to go by their recent behaviour during the just-ended destructive stay-away.
The co-ordinating role of ZUPCO brings back nostalgic memories when this very transport service flourished in Harare.
Whatever caused its collapse we, however, believe this is an opportune time for its come back.
The commuters are there in large numbers, ready for its service.
What is needed is efficient management free of corruption.
We don’t want a repeat of where large sums of money are used to purchase a fleet suitable for roads in Iceland when our terrain is not in any way similar to that.
We want to believe what we have seen in Harare this week is only the beginning of bigger and better things to come.
We expect to see many more ZUPCO buses offering their service, not only in Harare, but in other cities and towns as well.
A major problem already being experienced by our conventional buses during peak hours is the traffic jam.
The long delays force some commuters to unwillingly opt for kombis which can easily weave their way past traffic jungles.
Eventually it might be necessary to widen our roads to allow for ‘buses only’ tracks.
So we still have a lot to do to modernise our urban mass transport system.
However, modernising our mass transport system should not be limited to roads only but the railway system as well.
We have the infrastructure linking the city of Harare to a number of suburbs by rail.
Remember the National Railways of Zimbawe’s Freedom Train!
The palpable relief among commuters using the Marimba, Dzivaresekwa and Ruwa rail routes that time is still vivid.
Right now, Bulawayo is already enjoying a similar service.
Where the railway system might be obsolete, surely it can be revamped to bring back train transport.
The Chitungwiza rail line project has been gathering cobwebs for years.
This has to be constructed now as we go the whole hog in our efforts to modernise our urban transport system.
There is no better time!