Senegal's cheap and convenient local buses are making their last journeys under a scheme to replace them with bigger - and much costlier - new models from Asia. David Pollard reports.
They're an institution in Dakar. The cars rapides - or 'fast buses' - that French carmaker Renault brought to Senegal in the 1970s. Tourists love them - and many locals, who say they're convenient. Others say they're uncomfortable, polluting and prone to accidents. Either way, after four decades of service, they're en route to some other institutions - as exhibits. Local transport official Mbaye Amar. (SOUNDBITE) (Wolof) MBAYE AMAR, ECONOMIC INTEREST GROUP FINANCIAL ASSOCIATION OF URBAN TRANSPORT PROFESSIONALS (GIE AFTU) VICE PRESIDENT, SAYING: "We're going to display one in the city as a symbol because they've lasted so long and for tourists to see. And they've taken one to France to put in a museum." Under a scheme part funded by the World Bank, the cars rapides are due to take their last fares by 2018. Small and familiar to be replaced by new - and much bigger - buses from China and India. Opponents of the scheme say it'll cost more than just tradition. At over 40,000 dollars, they say a new bus is twelve times as much as an old one to buy. Ticket prices can be nearly four times higher than before. In a city where most live on a few dollars a day, some hope the wheels of progress won't roll too fast. (SOUNDBITE) (Wolof) IBRAHIMA FALL, DAKAR RESIDENT, SAYING: "However many new buses there are, I don't think the cars rapide will disappear. There will always be certain neighbourhoods the new buses can't access, but the cars rapides can. That's the difference between the two buses." But the government is helping owners to buy the new buses. And that's a compelling argument to change. For the cars rapides, life, sadly, may NOT be beginning at forty, but ending.