Ahmed Al Bulushi, CEO of Mwasalat – Oman’s national transport company – talks about recent developments, embracing new technology, and future plans. There is much to learn and more still to come at the passenger transport sessions in Oman.
Mwasalat is the national transport company of Oman, founded in 1972. It has been engaged in a profound process of transformation to become a modern and efficient public transport operator, committed to cutting edge technology. Mwasalat is working together with IRU to bring specialists in passenger transport to the sidelines of the World Congress, to look at the big issues facing the sector – new technology and disruption and access to markets.
Recent years have been very intense for the development of Mwasalat. What actions have you taken?
During November 2015, occurring simultaneously with the celebration of the 45th year of the Renaissance of Oman, a key milestone was achieved by the company: Mwasalat unveiled a new company identity and the spinal route of Muscat public transport system was implemented, while the existing routes were renovated with a brand-new and modern fleet. This was the first step of a long process that will see a substantial number of routes being implemented in Muscat.
To date, there have been 14 city routes and 17 intercity routes.
The modernisation of the company has not been limited only to urban transport in Muscat, Mwasalat intercity and international services were also improved as part of this renovation process with a brand-new fleet with the highest levels of quality and safety.
The new Muscat services have changed the public transport landscape in the city, how have people reacted to the new services?
Reactions to the new bus services in Muscat have been very positive. Passengers are very satisfied with the new features in the buses. The buses are low-floor, air-conditioned and equipped with cameras and information screens. In terms of demand, the launch of these initiatives have been very successful, since public transport demand has substantially increased: more than 600,000 passengers used the Mwasalat service in Muscat in the first 70 days.
We transported over 2.5 million passengers on city and intercity routes during the first half of this year (2018).
With an average of 14,000 passengers per day (15% growth from 2017). Buses are also equipped with IVMS and we are currently preparing to launch Intelligent Transport System (ITS). There is free WiFi for passengers, air-conditioning at bus stops and routes are available to view on Google Maps.
Regarding the future, what actions is the company planning?
A number of ambitious plans are underway for the company such as the expansion of the city and intercity bus fleet in order to implement new urban bus routes in Muscat, to establish new urban bus routes in other strategic cities of the Sultanate and to reinforce or extend the intercity routes with new services to other destinations or greater frequencies for existing routes. We are also planning to launch city routes in both Sohar and Salalah.
Intelligent Transport System (ITS) is key element for the modernisation of the company. What ITS are you planning to implement?
We have implemented smart ticketing, passenger information systems, automated vehicle management systems, etc. All these initiatives will help to improve transport systems and mobility, reduce traffic associated problem, enhance the economy and, finally, help to continue the economic and social development of the Sultanate of Oman.
We are also in the process of implementing the following as part of Intelligent Transport Systems umbrella: a planning and scheduling system; an automated vehicle management system (AVM); and an automated fare collection System (AFC).
The public transport sector is very particular in Oman, what challenges is the company facing in this sector?
The main challenge is the regulation of the sector.
Mwasalat needs this regulation: firstly, to regulate the taxi sector so they become a professional and complementary activity to bus services; and secondly, to regulate the passenger land transport market, so the coexistence of public (Mwasalat) and private bus companies is achieved in parallel. Fortunately, the work was kick started by the Land Transport Law that was issued by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which is the first step to regulate the sector.
What are you looking forward to at the IRU World Congress – what do you think the event will bring to the transport and logistics sectors of Oman?
I am looking forward to directly interacting with a wide array of experts in transport and logistics in order to jointly address different aspects of this rapidly evolving sector in Oman and drive it to sustainability.
The event will benefit the sector overall by helping us see where we stand and assess our progress.
It will give us the opportunity to acquaint new practices, which should result in long-term growth in transport and logistics.
An earlier version of this interview was first published in ITransporte.