Mwasalat plans to boost bus frequency in Oman

Oman Monday 13/February/2017 22:00 PM
By: Times News Service
Mwasalat plans to boost bus frequency in Oman

Muscat: As part of strengthening public transport service in the country, the Sultanate’s state-owned transport company – Mwasalat - is all set to purchase 118 new buses to operate in eight new routes.
This is part of a larger scheme to acquire 350 new buses and invest a whopping $300 million in the next three to five years to expand the company’s operation and to strengthen the public transport system in the country, according to Ahmed Ali Al Balushi, chief executive officer of Mwasalat, who was talking to journalists on the sidelines of UITP Mena Seminar and Assembly here on Monday.
However, he noted that the plan to acquire 350 buses over the next three to five years and the proposed investment will depend on the availability of funds.
“We have already tendered for 118 buses and it is in the final stages. Hopefully, the award will take place before the end of the month or early next month,” Al Balushi said, adding; “Once the new fleet arrives (towards the end of the year), we will be operating eight new routes.
“Also, we will enhance the frequency of bus service in existing routes.”
This is in addition to seven routes operated by Mwasalat. The bus service will start in the seventh route (between Al Mabela and Al Mabela South) in March.” This route is connected to other routes for passengers who would like to go to Ruwi or Al Khuwair.
Al Balushi said that if the company finalises the deal to purchase 118 buses by the end of the month, the new buses will start coming from fourth quarter onwards. It will be imported in different phases over a period of three to four months.
5-7 million passengers
Mwasalat is targeting to carry 5 million passengers this year with the existing fleet. However, with the new fleet, the number of passengers could be much higher.
“With the new buses, the number will be higher and will depend on several other factors. We started with 5,000 passenger per day and today, we are carrying 12,000 passengers a day. We need to create the demand,” the Mwasalat chief said, adding; “The consultant (appointed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications) said that Mwasalat may carry up to 7 million passengers this year (with new buses).”
He also noted that majority of funds for expansion programmes will be from international facilities or local finance.
Recruiting drivers
Al Balushi said that his company plans to recruit 300 drivers to operate the new fleet and the selection process will start immediately. “We have to train them.”
Mwasalat has an employee strength of 850 workers and 85 per cent of them are Omanis.
He also noted that there is a plan to set up two or three air-conditioned bus stops in March or April, which will be similar to Dubai. “However, my priority is to strengthen the frequency of bus service.”
Addressing a panel discussion, he said that the company has been facing several challenges in strengthening the public transport service. “The infrastructure in the city was not good enough to accommodate bus service. Also, we had a challenge to train drivers,” he added.