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'NOAH' passenger cars operation extended to July 2013

A meeting between Arusha Regional Authorities, officials from the Surface and marine Transport Regulatory Authority and operators of passenger vehicles held here over the weekend reached an agreement to extend the deadline from the previous August 1st 2012 to July 2013.

Early this year, the Regional authorities had issued directives that the small cars that are being used as passenger transporters on routes linking Arusha City and Karatu Town as well as the Namanga border, were not road worthy.The owner of the 'Noahs' were instructed to take the small vehicles off the road by the first day of July, this year and replace the puny carriers with larger, sturdy vehicles designed and certified to carry passengers.

Built by Toyota, the 'Noah' wagons were essentially meant to be Multi-purpose vehicles (MPV), designed to be extended family cars albeit with added third row of seats as opposed to standard sedans (saloons) which features only two rows of seats.Clever investors here decided to take full advantage of the added rear seat in turning the small vehicles into commercial commuter buses, squeezing there in ten passengers instead of the intended seven.

Similar shaped and sized, Nissan Serenas though fewer than their Toyota alter-egos, are also serving along the two routes.The 'Noah' moniker tagged onto the vehicles' Toyota brand badge seems to have been named after the legendary religious figure who reportedly built an ark big enough to accommodate his family, consisting of eight people and all the wildlife species roaming the earth in his quest to save them from an apocalyptic flood.

The 'Noah' vehicles are capable of being stretched to carry two more people than the giant, towering ark built by the original 'Noah, something which has raised concern regarding the safety of people travelling in the tiny motorized aluminum crates.More eyebrows were raised when it came to light that the 'Noahs' do travel at the speed of light because the journey between Arusha and Karatu,located over 200 kilometers apart, takes just two hours.

As the result a directive from SUMATRA ordered that the kiwi-shaped vans be off the road effective from the 1st of August, this year, but the Lite-Ace vans operators went up in arms against the order.The Chairperson of the Noah Express Vans' association here, Mr Donnie Mushi reminded SUMATRA officials that, in addition to making transport more reliable and affordable, the light vans have been providing employment to young people who serve as drivers or conductors with the Noah cars.

About 100 Noah cars operate along Namanga and Karatu routes, employing more than 200 people, a number which was to be hurled onto the streets, jobless, once the transport authorities took the light vans off the road."The ban of Noahs in Arusha will eventually spread to other parts of the country and soon, millions of Tanzanians stand to lose their jobs while other residents will be compelled to suffer transport blues," Mushi maintained, pointing out that Noah operators have also been paying government taxes.

The operators smell foul play in the new development and have vowed not to sit back and let some people bulldoze them.An official statement from SUMATRA which was circulated earlier indicated that the banning of the Kiwi-shaped cars was in line with Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority Act 5 sections B, C and D which states that transport licences for passenger vehicles will not be given to those carrying less than 14 people.

"All passenger vehicles with seating capacity of less than 14 people will no longer be permitted to operate as commercial carriers effective from 31st of July 2012," reads the SUMATRA directive. The other thing affecting 'Noahs,' according to SUMATRA is the lack of the emergence exits in case of accidents. The cars feature one sliding passenger door, one lift-up boot loader and two front doors for the driver and the adjacently seated person.

Sections 4.4.3 of the SUMATRA act states clearly the size of windows and number of doors required for a passenger carrier in addition to emergency exit and apparently the Toyota Noah and Nissan Serena cars do not meet the standards.The Namanga Association of Transporters (NASA) on the other hand joined the fray by writing a letter to the Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mr Magessa Mulongo complaining against the SUMATRA's threats.

The operators addressing the 'emergence' door requirements, they proposed to upgrade to the new versions and models of Noah cars that now feature two sliding doors, one on either sides of the vehicle. But will the passengers be affected? Mr John Bayi, a resident of Karatu said the 'Noahs' were useful as express connectors between Arusha and Karatu and replacing them with larger, slower vehicles may be highly inconvenient to local travellers.

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Author: MARC NKWAME

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