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Waiting, waiting, waiting for the buses

feature jon one of the bus stops outside the nicosia general hospital (christos theodorides)
One of the bus stops outside the Nicosia general hospital (Christos Theodorides)
Workers suffering as Nicosia buses fail to stick to their schedules

 

Despite municipalities and the government pushing people to ditch their cars and make use of public transport, bus users in Nicosia have reported massive delays when waiting for buses, which for many remain the only way to move around the capital.

“I can understand the occasional delay, but, in recent months, bus schedules have lost all their meaning, they are simply not reflective of the truth,” Caterina Popa, a 26-year-old Romanian national, told the Sunday Mail.

Popa, a mother of two, is juggling three cleaning jobs and depends on the bus to get from one to the other within a single day.

“I need to leave my home at least one hour before the scheduled time its due to pass my nearest bus stop. Sometimes it arrives on time, other times it arrives early or late, there’s simply no way to tell,” she said.

“Once, I had to wait for over 45 minutes. And there are many people who, like me, have no alternatives but to wait for it.”

“Delays are still affecting me and many of my friends. Buses arriving on time are a rarity,” said 56-year-old Saanvi Anand, also a cleaner.

“Even the people working at the information desk at Solomou square don’t know when certain buses will arrive at the station. Being the most central and the busiest, this should be taken care of.”

Last February, the Cyprus Public Transport (CPT) company announced the completion of a new bus terminal in Strovolos, a key artery for connectivity within the capital.

New routes were added as well as 5G-powered internet in and at bus stops.

Previously, the CPT added four other main bus hubs to the capital’s network, in order to decongest Solomos square. The new hubs are located at Makarios stadium, Strovolos, Nicosia general hospital, Tamasos and Alambra.

However, confusion regarding arrival times, especially at the hub located outside the hospital, still remains.

“I have to come here almost every day to check in on my husband, who has a chronic disease and needs frequent hospitalisation,” Despina, a 74-year-old pensioner told the Sunday Mail.

“Most of the time, my son can drop me off, but whenever I have to take the bus, I am always late. The electronic boards at the bus stop are never working, resulting in overcrowded buses.

“I am aware of the traffic issues affecting Nicosia, but certainly more can be done to improve the service,” she said.

The CPT is aware of the problems affecting bus hubs, particularly the ones at Solomou square and the general hospital.

“The electronic boards at Solomou square and at the hospital will be replaced very soon,” CPT business development manager Alexandros Kamberos told the Sunday Mail.

“In addition to that, along with the Nicosia municipality, we are laying out an action plan to revamp Solomou square, which is still by far the busiest hub of the capital.”

Kamberos acknowledged that the bus schedules found on the CPT website are often not accurate, but said there are better ways for passengers to find out the exact times of arrival for their buses.

“The ‘Pame’ mobile app gives passengers real time information on buses and their arrival at each bus stop,” he said.

“I encourage all passengers to download it on their phones. It’s the best way to find out about bus arrivals.”

Along with checking arrivals, the app allows passengers to browse interactive maps, access route information and top up their Motion Travel Card.

“Traffic in Nicosia is often hectic and unpredictable, so ‘fixed’ schedules are not always to be relied upon,” he said.

“There is a plan to add more buses to the capital’s network, but that is still a work in progress, as the transport ministry and the Nicosia municipality are still laying out plans,” Kamberos said.

Users acknowledge there have been some improvements to the service, particularly in regard to the level of cleanliness on buses.

“A few years ago, all buses stank, there is simply no other way to put it,” said Anand, a Sri Lankan who arrived in Cyprus in 2014.

“Almost all buses I use every day, and I use them a lot, are now clean. You can actually tell they are being taken care of on a daily basis. I think a lot has to do with the coronavirus pandemic. People are now more careful when it comes to cleanliness and for a good reason.”

Nicosia mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis has also called for patience regarding the upgrade of the bus service in the capital, adding, however, that in order to convince people to switch to public transport, the frequency of buses and their operating hours need to be extended.

“In order to convince people to use public transport, buses need to gain an advantage over cars. This can only be reached with an overall improvement of the entire network, combining it with other things, such as smart traffic lights,” Yiorkadjis said last month.

“Change is not always easy, but the benefits are huge. A better quality of life does not mean owning one or more cars. We need to do it for our future generations. Patience is key.”

But for people like Caterina, trying to hold down three cleaning jobs a day while using the buses, patience is in short supply.

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