By Matabeleland North Correspondent
VICTORIA FALLS: The return of long-distance buses on the country’s highways has come as a huge relief to citizens who have been finding it hard to travel as private motorists charged exorbitant fares.
The government a fortnight ago lifted the ban on intercity travel and allowed long-distance buses to resume operations on their permitted routes but after registering with the Ministry of Transport for adherence to Covid-19 regulations.
Public transport operators followed up with a meeting with the Transport Ministry officials last week Wednesday to agree on modalities for the new normal business operations.
This week, buses started operating between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo and ZUPCO pegged fares at $800 or US$9 for the trip while Stallion Bus Service and Extra City pegged theirs at US$10.
All along, unscrupulous transporters have been charging between US$15 and US$20 for the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls trip taking advantage of the shortage of transport.
On Thursday evening, there were five buses at the Victoria Falls rank and one at the Hwange rank, much to the excitement of travellers.
“For now, the bus leaves in the morning since there are few people. Once people get to know that we are back we will revert back to our night timetable,” said a ZUPCO driver who preferred to remain anonymous.
Mariya Moyo, who was going to Bulawayo, said the buses came at the right time when she has to run around to gather provisions for her children who will be returning to school this Monday.
“I don’t know how to express my happiness because I don’t think I would have managed to pay US$40 just for transport for my two daughters when they go back to school in Bulawayo over the weekend. As we speak, I am going to Bulawayo to buy a few provisions for them and I was happy when I was told its $800. It’s a lot of money but affordable compared to the US$20 which was being charged by private transporters,” she said.
Another traveller said: “It’s over for those unscrupulous transporters as people will now go back to buses.”
A member of the public transporters’ association Oliver Mwembe said operators will use fares they were charging before the lockdown in US$, with changes only in the local currency.
Transporters have been ripping off travellers taking advantage of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions on registered operators.