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Transporters have complained of low business this festive season as there has been a decline in the number of travellers to the rural areas compared to the same period last year. Transport operators told The Herald yesterday that last year business started peaking by December 18, but this year the volume of travellers had remained low. Some operators blamed it on the economic situation while others said it was an indication that most people had bought cars and were no longer using public transport.

At Mbare Musika yesterday, long distance bus operators complained that only 15-seater commuter omnibuses were making brisk business as they were preferred by most travellers.

There were also few travellers along Second Street and Josiah Chinamano Avenue, Fourth Street and Harare Showgrounds pick-up points.

Mr Wilson Chatora, who plies the Harare-(Nerupiri) Gutu route said by now last year he would have been making two trips per day but yesterday he was forced to abandon the trip after failing to get passengers.

“We have cancelled the trip because few people were coming. It does not make economic sense that we travel to Gutu with only a few people. Last year by December 18, we were already making huge profit. Maybe people will start coming as we move closer to Christmas Day,” he said.

Another operator, Mr Farayi Saungweme said many people were not traveling this season compared to last year.

“You can see by the number of people at this place. Last year, the place was heavily congested. There is not much difference in the number of travellers during the festive season and the normal days,” he said.

An operator with Mukumba Brothers plying the Chiredzi route blamed the increase in private vehicles for low business.

“A number of people have bought cars and they would not want to use public transport. The transporters have also increased their fleet of vehicles and commuters have a wide range of choice to chose from,” he said.

Vendors at Mbare Musika also complained of low business.

Mrs Rebecca Chinyama of Epworth said last year she made a lot of money as many travellers bought her wares but this season has been different.

“It is because of cash shortages. Only those who are financially stable are travelling, I also failed to travel for Christmas,” she said.

A traveller, Mrs Debra Chipfakacha said she had managed to visit relatives in the rural areas although she did not have much money.

“Christmas means a lot to me and I would want to spend it with people who matter most. However, I bought a few groceries,” she said.

Meanwhile, Passengers Association of Zimbabwe secretary-general, Mr Paul Makina has warned transport operators against illegally hiking fares.

“It is illegal to hike fares. The act is not justified since there has not been any fuel increase. Operators hiking fares should be arrested to curb the practice,” he said.

Source : The Herald