Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has approved an application from a Zimbabwean PhD candidate to undertake a study on the ambitious possibility of introducing the ‘Trackless Tram’ in the city.
Trackless Trams (TT) are based on technology created in Europe and China by taking innovations from high-speed rail and putting them in a bus.
The technology is an articulated, high capacity “tram” running on rubber tyres but with an in-built guidance system offering autonomous optically-guided running and operation with GPS and LIDAR technologies, into moving very precisely along an invisible track. The method measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light.
According to latest council minutes, BCC director of engineering services Engineer Simela Dube reported that the city had received expression of interest from Mr Vinnet Ndlovu, a PhD candidate with Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute in Australia through the Mayor’s office to do a study on the possibility of introducing the TT in Bulawayo.
The city’s department of Engineering Services has recommended that authority be granted to Mr Ndlovu to progress a study in partnership with the city on the possibility of introducing the TT in Bulawayo. The standard TT has three carriages that could carry 300 people, but it could take five carriages and 500 people if needed.
Should the findings of the study reveal that the TT project is feasible, implementation shall follow the council procurement procedures. The project is expected to be implemented within 36 months and that the funding could easily be sourced through a Private Public Partnership venture.
“Mr Ndlovu had been approached by Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute, School of Design and the Built Environment Faculty of Humanities (Australia) to undertake a PhD study on TT and to pilot the project of 12 to 15 trams.
“He further advised that they were currently talking with the manufacturer of these trams on implementation as a trial or pilot project, which they anticipated doing 12 to 15 months as a pilot project,” said BCC.
It said the TT system appears to be aligned to the city’s existing public transport policy by offering higher service frequencies, better quality and likely lower fares than the market would otherwise provide.
BCC also highlighted that a quick scan of the city had identified five potential TT corridors namely Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport Road, Plumtree Road (to Donnington industrial area), Khami and Luveve roads as well as Gwanda Road (to National University of Science and Technology) with the prospect of maximum regeneration value.
Council has noted among other benefits that the TT system was a transport-based project, which together with the Egodini project would lead to a rapid regeneration of the city on the corridors, ease existing transport challenges in the city, as well as reduce traffic congestion in the Central Business District.
Presently, Mr Ndlovu is working on developing a paper that would showcase and quantify the expected economic activities and land appraisal value that would be brought about by the TT project in Bulawayo.
“He would need some assistance with access to some economic data/information from the city’s economic development and planning department to develop some econometric model(s) to showcase the economic activities that this project would bring to the city.
“Given the nature of the project, it would encourage and help kick-start the highly needed resurfacing of the city’s road network especially on corridors where TT system would be constructed,” said BCC.