CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

s vi­o­lence over the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of bus routes by Putco in Mamelodi, east of Pre­to­ria, in­ten­si­fied, the com­pany re­vealed that it had been forced to take the dras­tic step of aban­don­ing un­prof­itable Gaut­eng routes be­cause it had lost R300 mil­lion in ser­vic­ing them.

Putco pulled out of a num­ber of routes pass­ing through Katle­hong, Vosloorus, Thokoza, Mamelodi and Mey­er­ton, cit­ing low gov­ern­ment sub­sidi­s­a­tion.

The com­pany’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Franco Pis­apia, said the routes were not sus­tain­able any more and the com­pany had en­dured R60 mil­lion in losses each year over the past five years.

“We have been run­ning at an an­nual loss of about R60 mil­lion and we could not sus­tain it any longer, [lest] we suf­fo­cate our­selves.

“We have sub­sidised the depart­ment of trans­port for five to six years [while run­ning at a loss],” Pis­apia said.

Tsh­wane metro po­lice spokesper­son Isaac Ma­hamba said a to­tal of seven Au­topax buses were pelted with stones and dam­aged in Mamelodi on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

He added that a driver and three pas­sen­gers needed to be hos­pi­talised with in­juries af­ter they were shot at while in a Putco bus from Moloto as it drove through Mamelodi on Solomon Mahlangu Drive be­tween the N4 and Pre­to­ria.

Pis­apia laid the blame for the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of the routes at the door of the Gaut­eng depart­ment of trans­port.

He said his com­pany had hoped the depart­ment would en­gage with it and seek a so­lu­tion to its chal­lenges.

“I am very dis­ap­pointed in the depart­ment’s at­ti­tude – that they left things for the last minute. The depart­ment could have en­gaged with us sooner in the in­ter­ests of com­muters, and avoided the prob­lems un­fold­ing now,” he said.

“We were pre­pared to dis­cuss it with them to find a way of mak­ing this work. The depart­ment did noth­ing for six months, and only signed a con­tract with Au­topax at the eleventh hour.”

Pis­apia said that among their prob­lems had been that the bus in­dus­try had taken a “sub­sidy cut of 17% since 2009, and we only re­ceived a 2% in­crease this year”.

For the com­pany to keep the af­fected routes sus­tain­able and prof­itable, Putco said it “needed a 40% sub­sidy in­crease [be­cause] we can’t just in­crease fares”.

Pis­apia said the fund­ing model dif­fered per route and con­tract and that a kilo­me­tre was sub­sidised at about R17 “which is far too lit­tle to run a busi­ness of this note”.

But Gaut­eng trans­port MEC Is­mail Vadi ac­cused Putco of se­lec­tive de­ci­sion mak­ing, say­ing the com­pany had kept its con­tracts on those roads where it re­ceived higher sub­si­dies, while halt­ing its ser­vices on roads that were less sub­sidised. “Putco is not say­ing that they have kept the bulk of their con­tracts. How are those prof­itable to them but not these ones?” Vadi asked.

He said Putco was re­ceiv­ing R900 mil­lion of the R2 bil­lion the Gaut­eng depart­ment of trans­port spent on





Mamelodi Vosloorus Katle­hong Mey­er­ton

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