Mwasalat Oman to operate buses at half capacity when services resume

Sinyar – the integrated identity of Oman National Transport Company (Mwasalat) and National Ferries Company (NFC) – envisions a significant reduction in the passenger capacity of buses, as well as trip frequencies and route performance when services, currently suspended on account of the pandemic, eventually resume across the Sultanate.

Mohammed Said al Yousefi

No date has been announced for the restart of services, which were paused countrywide on March 19 as part of measures rolled out by authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19.

According to a top official of the wholly government-owned integrated public transport operator, a plan for the “reactivation” of services is essentially in place, but the timing of the relaunch of operations remains a “management decision”.

Mohammed Said al Yousefi (pictured), Head of Intercity Routes Planning at Sinyar, shared details of the company’s “reactivation plan” during a webinar organised by Muscat University on Monday evening.

In his presentation, titled ‘Future Plan for the Transportation Sector in Oman’, Al Yousefi traced the initial development of Mwasalat Oman and National Ferries as independent operators in their respective domains leading to their integration in 2019 in line with parent organisation Asyad Group’s strategy to provide international-class transportation services to passengers.

Sinyar’s Reactivation Plan, according to the official, envisages a reduction in network operations, number of routes, trip timings, and frequencies, in addition to limits on passenger capacity.

“In light of COVID-19 safety awareness, we will be limiting the number of passengers per vehicle,” said Al Yousefi. “Normally, we operate city and intercity services at full capacity, but due to the virus situation, we have to minimise the number of passengers. If the bus carries 49 – 50 passengers, it will now take only 20 passengers to ensure safe and secure transportation. In addition, passengers will have to wear masks and apply sanitiser liquid when boarding the bus. Buses will also have to go for sanitisation as well.”

A slight downsizing of operations is envisioned as well, he stated.  In the capital region, for example, from a total of 14 routes operated in pre-pandemic times, this number will be reduced to 12, said the official, noting that the actual number and choice of routes will ultimately be “based on the management’s decision”.

Additionally, in keeping with the operator’s plans to maintain “reduced operations”, trip frequencies will be impacted as well. He explained: “Thus, if you have a service every 15 minutes, we have to increase the frequency to half an hour. Likewise, a 30-minute trip will be increased to 45 minutes in order to meet the COVID-19 situation and the need for reduced operations.”

Furthermore, Sinyar plans to cut daily operating hours from its usual 6 am to midnight schedule to 6am to 10pm when services resume, he said.

Meanwhile, Sinyar continues to assist the Ministry of Health with its COVID-19 related transportation requirements, said Al Yousefi.  In addition to providing a specially modified bus in support of the Ministry’s virus testing needs, the operator has also made available a number of coaches to ferry passengers at the behest of health authorities.