This year, Anbessa celebrates its 70th year anniversary, having been the first public transportation service to arrive in Addis Abeba in 1943. The company has lived through a wide range of changes in Ethiopia's capital city and now has a service that pleases many of its regular users. With the city's light railway currently under construction, these are exciting times for public transport in Addis Abeba writes, YETNEBERK TADELE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER
On the evening of June 5, 2013, at 7 pm, Solomon Jima, a father of two, was waiting for the number 3 Anbessa Bus at Piazza station, on Dejazmach Afework Street, to go home after a full day’s work at a private company.
He was tired and, looking at the dark, cloudy sky again and again, afraid of the rain that seemed ready to pour down.
The crowd that surrounded him, waiting for buses to Mexico, Torhailoch, Ayer Tena, Kara Kore, Mekanisa, Sarbet and Jemo, were all uncomfortable by the sight of the pregnant sky. The shade at the bus station could not accommodate all of those waiting.
“This is the day to day activity of my life,” said Solomon. “Running after these buses day and night.”
Solomon has used Anbessa buses for the last 15 years, from when he was an evening student at Kotebe Teachers College.
“All the way from my house at Ayer Tena to Kotebe, I used to pay only 50 cents, which was important to me as a student,” he reminisced.
According to him, the small amount of money that he put on his transportation expense has helped him to save lots of money for his education. Continuing his education after getting his diploma in history, Solomon went on to complete a study in educational psychology at the Addis Abeba University at the Sidist Kilo Campus, all the time using the Anbessa City Bus service.
However, besides the financial advantage of using the bus transport, he remembers how many exams and classes he missed because of late buses, particularly while studying at Kotebe.
“There were times I had to walk to my house in the evening when the bus was absent,” he said.
The first public transport service to arrive in Addis Abeba, the Anbessa City Bus Service Enterprise was established in 1943 with five military vehicles running only five routes. It is now celebrating its 70 years of anniversary. Since its operation, it has passed through many different phases of change.
From 1952 to 1974, it was operated by shareholders, which included – the government, the royal families, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and prominent merchants, and was named “Anbessa”.
During this time, the number of buses increased to 175 and the routes were also expanded to 35. The only regional city bus service, Jimma City Bus, also began operating under it in 1974.
During the Derg Regime, when private companies were nationalised, Anbessa fell under the Ministry of Communication & Transport. This time, the number of buses grew to 205 and the routes were expanded to 42.
Today Anbessa has around 730 busses, including the 500 Bishoftu buses, which are assembled locally by Metals & Engineering Corporation (MetEC). Though locally assembled, these buses have not been without their problems.
According to Bedelu Asefa, manager of the enterprise, 55 buses have so far been grounded because of a shortage of spare parts.
“The specifications for the spare parts, which are listed in the manual are also not clear and sometimes are written in Chinese,” he said.
Currently, the enterprise dispatches the buses from Legahar, Merkato, Piazza and Megenagna stations. There are also about 1,640 check points, where passengers get the services of up to 708 buses from 6 am to 2:30 pm daily on 112 routes. It also has four service centres at Yeka, Shegole, Makanisa and Akaki, where there are workshops, gas stations, stores and offices.
“Besides the challenges of traffic congestion that adds many hours onto travel, the current service is improved compared to previous times,” says Solomon. “I do not wait that long for the buses to come to the station.”
In the year 2012, the enterprise employed 7,747 staff in different professions. It also charges one birr for five kilometres of travel and 10 Br for 47km to 50 km.
“I could have spent more than 30 Br a day if I had used private transportation,” Solomon says.
According to the bulletin board at the enterprise where the daily income is posted, it had a revenue of a little over one million Birr on Tuesday, June 6, 2013.
Bedelu says that the enterprise has achieved only 87pc of its plan during the first nine months of the current year of operation, because of the delays and detours caused by the ongoing construction of the 34km Light Railway Transit (LRT), which goes from Ayat to Tor Hailoch (east to west corridor) and from Piazza to Akaki (north to south corridor).
“We are covering only 40pc of the city’s transportation demand,” said Bedelu.
The City Administration is planning to beef its transport supply by availing special lanes, called Rapid Bus Transit (BRT), which will lie next to the Light Railway Transit (LRT) line.
The government also aims to increase the road network from 12.24pc to 15pc, and the ratio of access to buses from 1:12,000 to 1:6,000 in 2015.
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