DAR ES SALAAM: THE Land Transport Regulatory Authority (LATRA) has assured the public that there is no transport crisis this festive season, attributing the smooth operations to the government’s decision to lift the ban on night travels by upcountry bus operators earlier this year.
Before this crucial decision, the imposition of night travel restrictions had been a longstanding challenge, particularly during peak travel periods like Christmas and New Year.
Limited operational hours often resulted in a strained transport system, struggling to accommodate the surge in demand. However, this year tells a different story.
LATRA Director General, Habibu Suluo, spoke of success so far recorded while cautioning up-country bus drivers who operate during night hours to adhere to the authority’s regulations.
“The Transport Licensing (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations, 2020 mandates that a bus driver should not drive for more than eight hours at a stretch, prioritising the safety of passengers,” he noted.
During the Christmas and New Year periods of the past, increased demand for buses, especially for those travelling upcountry, often led to challenges in meeting the surge.
LATRA responded proactively by issuing special permits, a strategy that has been particularly pronounced this holiday season.
Last December alone, LATRA issued 452 special permits across various regions, showcasing a commitment to ensuring that the increased demand for transport services during the festive season is adequately addressed.
These special permits were not only limited to large buses but also extended to minibuses, offering a diverse range of transport options to meet the specific needs of travellers.
Breaking down the numbers, LATRA reveals that 103 special permits were allocated to buses with a capacity to carry more than 42 passengers, catering to larger groups of travellers. The remaining 349 permits were reserved for minibuses, providing a flexible and accessible option for individuals looking to travel to areas with high demand for transport services.
As the festive season unfolds, Mr Suluo said the positive impact of lifting the night travel ban and implementing strategic regulatory measures is evident.
“The transport sector is experiencing a newfound flexibility, efficiency and responsiveness to the needs of both operators and passengers. LATRA’s commitment to ensuring a smooth holiday travel experience is not just a proclamation but a tangible reality shaping this year’s festive transport revolution,” he said.
In an impromptu visit to Magufuli Bus Terminal and Shekilango on Friday midnight, Mr Suluo expressed satisfaction with the current state of transport.
However, he acknowledged challenges identified during the inspection, particularly for Shekilango passengers who experienced prolonged waiting times due to necessary maintenance of buses.
“We wanted to find out the reason behind the long wait for the passengers at the bus station after which we learnt that the bus needed maintenance since the coaches ply back and forth,” Suluo explained.
He highlighted the importance of up-country bus drivers to take a break after eight hours of travel to ensure passengers’ safety.
LATRA, in collaboration with the Police Force, has undertaken measures to guarantee passengers’ safety, especially during the festive season.
“We, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, have planned to ensure that all passengers travel safely to meet their loved ones, especially during this festive season,” Mr Suluo assured the public.
The authority shared statistics on the growth of the transport sector in the past three years, indicating a positive trend.
From the fiscal year 2020/21 to 2022/23, the number of transport licences issued by LATRA increased from 230,253 to 284,158, an 18.4 per cent rise.
The substantial increase underscores the continuous investment and improvement in the country’s transport infrastructure.
He said as the festive season progresses, LATRA remains committed to maintaining the current positive transport situation and addressing any challenges promptly.
“Passengers are urged to stay informed about travel schedules and exercise caution during their journeys,” Mr Suluo said.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa announced the lifting of the night travel ban on June 28 this year, and the implementation became effective on October 1.
The move has significantly contributed to the improvement of transport conditions compared to previous holiday seasons.