THE BUS AND COACH INDUSTRY IN TANZANIA

The British bus operators the predominant problem today is lack of demand. In Tanzania, despite substantial economic problems, operators face no shortage of customers, but fuel, tyres and spares often constrain the level of service that can be offered.

With a population of about 19 million, Tanzania has an area much larger than that of Britain, giving an average density of only 20 persons per square kilometre, as compared with 230 in Britain. Apart from the main port, Dar es Salaam, with a population approaching a million, no town exceeds about 110,000 in population and the rural areas, especially in the centre, are of very low density indeed. Intense local demand is thus found in only a few areas, but long distance travel has grown rapidly as a result of migration and the growth of education.

Car ownership is very low – about one car per 300 people – and has a negligible effect on public transport in most areas. Walking and cycling probably account for most journeys, but cannot of course cater for longer distances. Internal air services offer a limited frequency, but in a country where the basic minimum wage is only about £45 per month are used by few. The rail network is limited and suffers from operational problems. The Chinese-built ‘Tazara’ line linking Dar es Salaam with Zambia carries only freight traffic at present*, despite a palatial passenger terminal at Dar es Salaam. The older metre-gauge network, inaugurated under German colonial rule, also concentrates on freight, with one passenger train per day on the route westward through Dodoma to Kigoma and on the line northward to Moshi and Arusha. Between Arusha, Moshi and Dar es Salaam about twenty bus journeys per day operate, vastly exceeding the rail passenger capacity.

High demand for bus and coach services is immediately evident from the high loads. One operator bases his budgeting on a minimum load factor of 70%. Pre-booking is desirable, or even necessary, to gain a seat on long distance, routes. Even on a Sunday afternoon, urban routes carry substantial standee loads.

In meeting this demand operators face many problems of supply. Fuel accounts for 20 to 25% of operating costs in contrast to 5 to 10% in Britain. Imports of fuel now cost over half the foreign exchange earnings of the nation and physical continuity of supply is also uncertain. Following a critical period in May-June, 1981, many long distance services from Dar es Salaam now carry sufficient fuel for the round trip rather than relying on inland supplies. Tanks to accommodate an extra 440 litres have been fitted to vehicles of the state owned National Bus Service (NBS), while independents carry additional oil drums. The price of fuel varies markedly with distance from coastal ports, reflecting transport costs. For example, at the southern port of Mtwara derv costs about shs.4 per litre (c. 25p.), but in Songea, 600 miles westward, about shs.6 (c. 40p.).

Supply problems also occur from time to time in tyres, although these are manufactured locally following the establishment of a joint operation some years ago with an American company. Poor roads aggravate tyre wear and also cause spring damage. Fairly large stocks of spares have to be held to ensure reliable operation.

In view of the limited investment that a country such as Tanzania can afford, it is not practicable to provide tarmac surfacing over a high proportion of the network. Within towns, major roads are surfaced together with some inter-urban links. Most of the inter-urban mileage, however, is unsurfaced. This becomes very dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet season. Continuity of service on most routes relies heavily on the skill and efforts of driving and maintenance staff. For such conditions a robust type of vehicle is required. Most recent deliveries to both independents and the NBS have been of the Leyland CD23, still carrying the Albion Clydesdale badge. The high floor level and front engine are well suited to the road surfaces and temperatures encountered. Bodywork is by domestic builders, mostly based in Dar es Salaam, including Singh Bros. and the Quality Garage. A centre entrance layout is generally favoured with five across seating to give a seating capacity of about 65 and a well-used roof rack. For urban use a standee layout with rear entrance and front exit and a seated conductor is found. Except in mini- and midi-buses there is no one-man operation in view of the low labour costs and high loadings.

The CD23 appears to be well regarded by operators. Accompanied by widespread use of Land Rovers, especially in the South, the Tanzanian scene can present a remarkably high proportion of Leylands on the road, although Scania and Isuzu have caught much of the lorry market. There is one feature which may require some improvement, namely, the hanger bracket securing the front springs, which is liable to considerable punishment on rough roads. A small number of Scania 111’s may also be seen, mainly as works buses, and NBS also has on test a Mercedes 1617.

There are two main publicly owned operators, both of which derive from the nationalisation of Dar es Salaam Motor Transport (DMT) in 1970. The long distance services from Dar es Salaam were transferred to the National Bus Service, better known by its Swahili fleetname KAMATA. This company now runs a fleet of about 90 vehicles on both long distance and suburban services. In some cases older long distance vehicles are rebuilt to dual doorway layout for suburban work. An interesting innovation recently has been the introduction of an internal radio network linking head office in Dar es Salaam with inland offices, reducing reliance on the heavily used telephone system.

The urban services of DMT were transferred to Usafiri Dar es Salaam, known as UDA, which today operates about 250 vehicles. Leyland and Mercedes high floor single deckers form a substantial proportion of the fleet, but an increasing element comprises the Ikarus units. The first batches of rear engined 266 model have a low rear clearance and the very first a somewhat incongruous appearance, being built to the East-European rule of the road rather than the British, which Tanzania retains, passengers thus boarding on the offside! More successful have been the 280 model articulated single deckers, whose high capacity has proved very valuable in handling growing traffic. Reliability is good, despite the complexity of articulation. Another significant part of the UDA fleet is the Isuzu minibus, operated on selected routes at a premium fare.

No private competition is permitted in Dar es Salaam apart from the numerous unmetered taxis. Shared taxis, or other forms of ‘paratransit’ found in developing country cities, are generally absent. Elsewhere in Tanzania a very different picture is presented with independent operators carrying most of the traffic both on routes competing with NBS and on routes not otherwise served. There is no price competition, all prices being regulated to a common scale, but there is competition in service quality and availability. A particularly marked concentration is found on the Dar es Salaam-Moshi-Arusha road, with about 15 to 20 operators, most with just one or two buses on the route. The standard Dar es Salaam-Moshi fare (in 1981) is shs.90, but at least one operator offers a ‘luxury’ service at shs.130.

Another publicly owned operator is the Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC), who in addition to railways as such run extensive road fleets originating as rail feeder services in the days when long distance road transport was less common than today. The former brown and cream colours of East African Railways, from which TRC split off in 1976, are retained. The principal operating base is Iringa, some distance south of the main east-west line.

In southern Tanzania considerable problems were caused by the collapse of “Teeteeco’, a publicly owned operator, which suffered severe maintenance problems providing freight and passenger services. Its operations have been taken over by three smaller companies under the control of the National Transport Corporation based at Lindi, Mtwara and Songea known as KAULI, KAUMU and KAURU, which is mainly running buses at present. New Leyland CD’s have been supplied with assistance from World Bank funds under a ‘rehabilitation and improvement’ project.

Overall it is clear that considerable scope for expansion exists in Tanzania provided that problems of fuel supply, maintenance and road surfacing can be successfully overcome.

Peter White
Polytechnic of Central London
September, 1981

* in 1981; now there are believed to be one passenger train in each direction per week.

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