Coun­cil thrown un­der the bus

Metrobus in trou­ble be­cause ‘driv­ers pocket fares’ and fleet has reached the end of its lifes­pan

Saturday Star - - METRO -

KGOPI MABOTJA

METROBUS is fail­ing to col­lect much needed rev­enue to help the com­pany re­turn to prof­itabil­ity be­cause of ma­jor loop­holes in the rev­enue col­lec­tion sys­tem, said Trans­port MMC Nonhlanhla Makhuba.

The de­tails about the strug­gling bus com­pany emerged in the Joburg coun­cil sit­ting last week.

Makhuba con­ceded there were loop­holes in the sys­tem of fare col­lec­tion and was drain­ing mil­lions of rand.

“With­out a proper work­ing sys­tem we are un­able to im­prove rev­enue. With the bud­get that has been al­lo­cated in the next fi­nan­cial year and mea­sures put in place by the de­part­ment, we will get to bot­tom of this.”

Metrobus spokesper­son Good­will Shiburi said, “Rev­enue short­fall is caused by poor and ob­so­lete col­lec­tion as well as bus short­fall.”

Shiburi added “... an es­ti­mated fare rev­enue short­fall amount­ing to R25 mil­lion per an­num (40%) can be di­rectly at­trib­ut­able to poor rev­enue col­lec­tion sys­tem.”

Ac­cord­ing to its mid-year per­for­mance assess­ment re­port for 2017/18, “rev­enue re­alised for the quar­ter was R325m against a tar­get of R348m, re­flect­ing a R23m rev­enue short­fall”.

The re­port fur­ther stated that “the en­tity has been mak­ing losses over the past 15 years and one of the ma­jor causes had been the in­abil­ity to col­lect all the rev­enues due”.

A source al­leged that the cash sys­tem was be­ing ex­ploited by driv­ers who did not check in some of the fares.

“Large sums of money con­tinue to drip out of the com­pany. Buses op­er­ate daily but do not make a profit.”

Makhuba said dis­cus­sions were un­der way for an in­te­grated cash­less pay­ment sys­tem for both Metrobus and Rea Vaya.

The city has bud­geted R80m in the 2019/2020 fi­nan­cial year and R50m in 2020/2021 for th­ese im­prove­ments.

The in­te­grated cash­less sys­tem is ex­pected to be im­ple­mented in 2021.

Shiburi said the bud­geted amounts would be di­rected to­wards “the in­terim rev­enue col­lec­tion sys­tem while Metrobus awaits the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the in­te­grated rev­enue col­lec­tion sys­tem”.

The com­pany did not have enough buses to ser­vice its clien­tele and Makhuba said Metrobus had been granted per­mis­sion by the coun­cil to lease buses to make up for the short­age.

The ma­jor­ity of the buses had reached the end of their lifes­pan, she added.

Metrobus will only likely to be re-fleeted in the 2019/20 fi­nan­cial year as the coun­cil has only bud­geted to fleet Rea Vaya Phase 1C in the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year.

The com­pany had leased 10 buses which were al­ready oper­a­tional, said Makhuba. She said plans were afoot to lease 20 more but did not in­di­cate when this would hap­pen.

The city also in­tended re­fur­bish­ing about 29 buses, she said.

Jo­han­nes­burg’s trea­sury di­vi­sion and its De­part­ment of Trans­port were in talks to de­rive plans to in­tro­duce a cash­less pay­ment sys­tem to im­prove rev­enue col­lec­tion, she said.

The 2017/18 midterm per­for­mance re­view re­port showed that Metrobus trans­ported about 5 mil­lion peo­ple, fall­ing short of its 7 mil­lion tar­get.

Shiburi said the coun­cil was work­ing to im­prove its com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing plat­forms to at­tract more com­muters to the sys­tem.

They were also “leas­ing buses for high-de­mand routes and have es­tab­lished a re­li­a­bil­ity unit to re­duce the num­ber of buses out of op­er­a­tion”.

A Metrobus mem­ber of the pas­sen­ger fo­rum, who do not want to be named, com­plained that the ser­vice was un­re­li­able and that most of the fleet was old.

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