Most of the Anbessa city buses that frequently broke down and went out of service in the first three quarters of this fiscal year were assembled by Bishoftu Automotive Engineering Industry (Bishoftu Automotive), a division of Metal Engineering Corporation (MetEC), according to a report by Addis Abeba City Council (Council).
The report demonstrated the results of a single day trial. Out of the 396 buses assigned daily for public transportation in the city, 97 buses needed repairs, of which 86 buses were assembled at Bishoftu Automotive. The report was presented by Aregash Chekol, chairperson of the Urban Development & Environmental Protection Affairs Standing Committee of the Council.
The Anbessa City Bus Service Enterprise (Enterprise), which has repair centres in Piassa, Leghar and Yeka had set out to allocate 534 buses for public transport services during this fiscal year, achieved almost three-quarters of its goal. Bishoftu Automotive provided 309 buses of the Council’s target.
This is in contrast to the Enterprise’s claim that it has over 850 operational buses. According to the report, the Enterprise failed to assure how many buses are in need of maintenance, repair, out of service, or are marked for disposal.
In 2013 the city had purchased 500 buses from Bishoftu Automotive that were delivered to the Enterprise. According to the report, 216 of these buses are currently operational, 191 are out of service or surviving as sources for spare parts, while the rest are deemed repairable if not functional.
“There is a serious shortage of spare parts,” said Leul Hailu, general manager of the Enterprise.
Future transactions with MetEC should be scrutinised in terms of quality and provision of spare parts, the report suggested.
Leul believes that Bishoftu Automotive buses are efficient though in need of technological improvements. He attributes frequent breakdowns to the shortage of spare parts, poor quality of maintenance and repair, inefficient utilisation of the buses and long hours of operation.
Bishoftu Automotive has sealed a 3.4 billion Br contract this year with the city’s Transport Bureau to procure 850 additional buses consisting of school buses, double-deckers, and mid-floor and low floor buses. They are expected to be delivered between July and October of this year.
“We have suggested the gaps that need to be addressed, which we hope they will consider,” Leul said.
The seventy-five-year-old Enterprise, which has over 3,500 employees, is set to obtain four new depots with Shegole and Kality depots under current construction.
The other two depots are at the design stage by a French consultant, Systera and Safege, and will have the capacity to house 450 to 850 buses at their locations in Yeka and Mekanissa, respectively. The Enterprise is also to start a new intelligent transportation system (ITS) within the next year. The system, which allows the real-time monitoring of the location of the buses, is being designed with a budget of 29 million dollars.
The Enterprise’s services cover 18 routes outside of Addis Abeba and 106 routes within the city, serving 300,000 commuters a day.
Metafer Beshahwured (Lut.Col), head of Marketing & Sales at Bishoftu Automotive, stated that they have no statistics on the frequency of breakage of the Anbessa buses. He reported that his company technicians had repaired more than 200 buses in July of last year at the request of the Enterprise.
“We also have adequate spare parts available except for a few we could not avail due to the foreign currency shortage,” he said. “We have even started supplying parts through our 10 agents in the capital.”
Bishoftu Automotive has maintenance garages in Hawassa, Arba Minch, Meqelle, Bahir Dar and Addis Abeba.
“Indeed there were minor body problems in the buses delivered about five years ago,” said Metafer, “and based on complaints from the Enterprise we have improved the mechanical parts to the automatic transmission and air suspension systems. We have also included modern electronic equipment for the upcoming orders.”
Established in 1984 to overhaul and repair militarily armoured and automotive vehicles, and then re-organised in 2010, Bishoftu Automotive has 450 local clients.
Fekadu Gurmessa (PhD), a transport geography lecturer at Addis Abeba University (AAU) for more than a decade, believes it is right for the city to buy more vehicles for mass transportation. He does not think that the already congested roads could accommodate the load though.
“The utilisation of priority lanes and devising a policy that discourages privately owned vehicles and encourages public transportation services is the way to go,” he says. “Otherwise, the strain on the buses will not be reduced, and commuters would be inconvenienced”.
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