Home | News    Monday 18 April 2011

Unofficial buses overcharging passengers in Wau

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By Ngor Arol Garang

April 16, 2011 (WAU) - Traffic police in Western Bahr el Ghazal State on Saturday cited lack of cooperation between passengers and law enforcement agents as one of the contributing factors for increased transport fares.

Anecdotal evidence collected by Sudan Tribune on Saturday in Wau town and its outskirts show that taxis, private cars and mini buses are charging above an acceptable rate.

Johnson Sebit Aki, a staff officer at the traffic police in Wau, said the illegal commuter transport business in the town is well known to the traffic police but the major obstacle has been lack of support from the members of public in curbing the menace.

"We have been intervening several times to stop such businesses from taking place, but in most cases, passengers themselves would team up in defense of drivers of such buses against the traffic police. These reactions have implication of supporting the business,” he said.

Aki cited an incident which recently occurred in Wau town, where traffic police were alerted the passenger of a commuter bus where passengers were charged twice the acceptable fare. However, on arrival the passengers insulted the police officer.

"They asked our officers to stay away as the payment was a consensus reached between them and the conductor. From such reactions we also lose appetite to continue dealing with them," he said.

The officer further noted that it was time the state administration thought of introducing an act to control the prevailing situation.

Dominic Achor who said works in the state ministry of physical infrastructure accepted that all the commuter buses are overcharging travelers and are doing it illegally. He said his ministry in collaboration with the law enforcement agents would soon introduced a policy and measure requiring all those carrying passengers to comply or risk being charged.

"We also realized some of the drivers are operating without license which is dangerous even to them. How do drive a vehicle without license and worse of all most of the vehicles are not insured. Late last year we conducted a special operation and arrested many buses which were fined and later registered to operate legally within the accepted fare," he said.

Achor, however, said that the surveys which have been conducted by his ministry from time to time show that the available commuter buses were satisfactory but the problem has always been unsatisfactory infrastructures to support the increasing vehicle numbers in the city.

"In the normal hours of the day, the city commuter buses move in and from the town almost empty and are available all the time, but during rush hours buses take so long to reach their destinations and back in the town. As a result passengers find themselves stranded and opt for the expensive means of transport," he said.

According to Achor, one of the reasons why the ministry conduct surveys on regular basis was to ensure availability of comfortable and affordable transport to all and that the authority was still collecting stakeholders’ views on whether they should introduce luxury commuter buses or not.

"Even if we reach a decision, it will take time for it to become operational because we need enough time to put in place control mechanisms," he said.

"Traveling from Wau town to Aweil, capital of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State or Kuajok, capital of Warrap State is supposed to be 50 pound per trip, but I find passengers sometimes paying 70–100 during rush hours for Aweil and 50-70 to Kuajok instead of 30 pounds. This is not acceptable. We need unified and standard charges. This is what we are working on", said Achor.

There are over 800 commuter buses at the moment plying different routes in Wau. Interviews conducted by Sudan Tribune indicate that many commuters are not happy with the service offered.

In another development, the official revealed that a Chinese company in collaboration with the government of South Sudan is expected to launch a project entitled "Capacity Building Project for the Improvement of Wau Transport".

He said the Chinese Consulate General has already paid a visit to Wau and held discussion with state Governor, Brigadier General Rizik Zachariah Hassan, in early February and agreed that the project would be launched before July. According to the official, the project aims to implement the government policy encouraging Urban Transport and System Development Master Plan for the ten states of south Sudan.

(ST)

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