During stakeholders' meeting held in Dar es Salaam, many were of the opinion that the proposed fares are too high and would not be affordable to many ordinary residents. TRL Senior Marketing Manager, Mr Hassan Shaban, earlier told the meeting that the company is set to introduce commuter train services as per government directives and has set aside three locomotives, six wagons and 22 staff to that effect.
"We have proposed to charge 800/- and 100/- as fare for adults and students respectively per trip and expect to transport about 10,000 passengers a day where each wagon will accommodate about 900 passengers per trip," he said. He said there will be two train routes plying between Dar es Salaam station and Ubungo Bus Terminal area during peak hours which will generate a gross income of at least 7m/- a day.
However, he observed that after deduction of costs and other expenses, the company is expected to make a net income of 1.6m/- a day. According to Mr Hassan, for the commuter trains to operate efficiently and profitably, arrangements should be in place to make sure they operate as an independent business unit.
"Apart from being an independent unit, heavy investment is needed to improve the 12 kilometres railway line which has not been in use for many years and has been encroached by residential houses built during the years it was idle," he said. Mr Hassan further recommended that an independent authority be established to regulate Dar es Salaam commuter train services to ensure optimum results and impact.
TAZARA Safety Manager, Eng. Hanya Mbawala said it was ready to provide commuter services for the city with an operating distance of 34 kilometres from the Tazara Station to Mwakanga and Kurasini stations. He said his company proposed fares of 700/- for adults and 100/- for students and children for the services which will operate on working days, with 24 trips a day. But stakeholders did not welcome the proposals on fares with alacrity.
Presenting the objections, Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority Consumer Consultative Council (SUMATRA-CCC) Executive Secretary, Mr Oscar Kikoyo, said fares should be pegged at 350/- and 150/- like with commuter buses. He argued that with 350/- for adults and 150/- for children and students, the companies are still assured of generating 136.8m/- a month and the monthly profit would be 15.1m/-, if the funds are well collected and managed.
He said commuter train services was not meant to be a burden to passengers with low income, who if forced to pay proposed rates, will part with 38,400/- a month instead of 14,400/- they are paying today.
"Normally commuter train services should be cheaper than that of buses to make it sustainable, the government has to make sure it provides subsidies and waive taxes on fuel," he argued. Mr Edward Msaki said while the idea of introducing commuter train services is welcome, starting with such high fares would be a non-starter.
Many others, however, suggested that fares should be between 500/- and 400/- and 200/- for students and children to enable the service providers compete with commuter buses. At the end of the meeting, Acting SUMATRA Director General, Mr Ahmad Kilima said all policy issues raised by stakeholders will be forwarded to the government for action. He said stakeholders should continue submitting their written views until next Monday when the authority will decide on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe said that on Monday the government will have a symbolic launch of the commuter train services in Dar es Salaam. Dr Mwakyembe said that the official launch of the transport services for city residents will be done by the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda.