Buses a vi­tal govt ser­vice

Op­er­a­tors warn ser­vice-de­liv­ery protests will in­crease if cheap public trans­port fails to run

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN • al­wyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

NA­TIONAL bus op­er­a­tors last week re­peated the mes­sage they give each year at the an­nual South­ern African Bus Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence, but for 2015 they added ser­vice-de­liv­ery protests into the mix.

Ad­dress­ing the op­er­a­tors on trans­for­ma­tion in the bus in­dus­try, cost­ing ex­pert Philip van Ryn­eveld warned if bus op­er­a­tors did not get the in­creased sub­si­dies they need to con­tinue sup­ply­ing cheap and safe trans­port, the cur­rent av­er­age of three ser­vice-de­liv­ery protests a month in Gaut­eng could tre­ble to nine.

Van Ryn­eveld said this pat­tern could re­peat along bus routes ev­ery­where in South Africa.

Ear­lier Deputy Trans­port Min­is­ter Sin­disiwe Chikunga told the as­sem­bled op­er­a­tors South Africa’s public trans­port chal­lenges are com­pounded by se­ri­ous ser­vice back­logs “as a re­sult of years of ne­glect and un­der­in­vest­ment” in public trans­port.

“A re­cent re­port by the Fi­nan­cial and Fis­cal Com­mis­sion (FFC) con­cluded that South Africa’s trans­port sys­tem prob­lems are largely characterised, and should be ac­knowl­edged, as ser­vice-de­liv­ery back­logs,” said Chikunga.

He said to ad­dress th­ese back­logs will take a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time and said “in­jec­tion of funds alone will not be ad­e­quate to solve our public trans­port prob­lems”.

He said just throw­ing money at the prob­lem will not solve the back­logs as South Africa al­ready sub­sidised about 60% of a bus ticket com­pared to 30% or less in Europe and zero per­cent in most African states.

He said the so­lu­tion for SA’s public trans­port chal­lenges goes be­yond fund­ing and in­cludes is­sues such as spa­tial devel­op­ment plan­ning, proper man­age­ment and proper plan­ning,” said Chikunga.

Lisa Sef­tel, for­mer direc­tor of trans­port in the City of Jo­han­nes­burg, said lack of clear lead­ers who can get man­dates, on­go­ing in­sta­bil­ity and lack of in­put from the taxi in­dus­try can still take the whole public sec­tor down.

Sev­eral bus op­er­a­tors com­plained dur­ing fo­rum dis­cus­sions that il­le­gal taxi op­er­a­tors were “steal­ing” their clients away, while the on­go­ing plan­ning showed no signs of com­ing to an end.

UK Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion’s busi­ness devel­op­ment direc­tor Ja­son Vallint said this was a real con­cern, as the UK’s statis­tics show buses to be much safer ve­hi­cles than any other mode of road trans­port.

Van Ryn­eveld said the cur­rent view by con­ven­tional bus op­er­a­tors, namely that rapid bus trans­port pro­grammes will erode their busi­ness, must shift.

He said bus rapid trans­port with its gross con­tract­ing pay­ment model is not fea­si­ble on South Africa’s tra­di­tion­ally long bus routes, on which all the pas­sen­gers typ­i­cally travel to the same des­ti­na­tion on re­turn jour­neys.

Sim­i­larly, th­ese long route op­er­a­tors would not sur­vive in the shorter routes of cities, which has a busi­ness model that re­quire pas­sen­gers to con­stantly get on and off the bus.

Head of KZN’s Depart­ment of Trans­port Sibu­siso Gumbi sent statis­tics that showed only five per­cent of bus routes were owned by by “Africans”.

Sev­eral op­er­a­tors from KZN chal­lenged this statis­tic, say­ing KZN was 100% trans­formed, with all public trans­port owned by peo­ple of African de­scent.

“In­stead of wor­ry­ing about BEE, our prov­ince should think about low­er­ing the li­cence fees for heavy com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles.

“KZN’s li­cens­ing fees are the high­est in SA and where pos­si­ble, all op­er­a­tors reg­is­ter their buses and trucks in neigh­bour­ing prov­ince to save tens of thou­sands a year,” said a bus op­er­a­tor, who asked to re­main anony­mous.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

Seen at the bus con­fer­ence held in Pre­to­ria last week were Freda Cooper (sec­ond from left) with the Sekalis, who trans­port shop­pers from the Eastern Free State to Gaut­eng, (from left) Joyce, Mat­shidiso, Ler­ato Sekali and Tha­bang Sekali.

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