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Metrobus yesterday took delivery of 38 new Mercedes-Benz buses as part of its programme to upgrade its ageing fleet and deal with the ever-increasing demand for decent public transport in Johannesburg.
"This is just the first batch of the 126 buses we have ordered from DaimlerChrysler [which makes the Mercedes buses]. The aim of these buses is to have a new fleet with an average age of less than seven years by 2010," said Metrobus managing director Bheki Shongwe.
More than half of Metrobus' 495 buses are older than 20, and the subsidised bus service will spend about R115million on new buses to reach its 2010 goal.
The bus chassis is assembled at the DaimlerChrysler plant in East London and the order has already created at least 20 jobs.
The new fleet delivery coincides with the provincial government's experiment this week to provide a designated lane for high occupancy vehicles on the Ben Schoeman highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, to encourage people to used public transport.
"But unless public transport is fast and efficient, people will continue to use their cars instead," said Rehana Moosajee, Johannesburg City mayoral committee member responsible for transport.
"The increase in car sales should be a worry to all public transport operators because it means more congestion on our roads. So we are looking seriously into having dedicated lanes for public transport all over the city to make sure that it will be faster," she said.
Moosajee acknowledged that the country had failed in terms of public transportation, "but there is now a sense of urgency as we build up to 2010 because we know that an efficient public transport system is an enabler of the economy".
The National Household Travel Survey released last year found that minibus taxis were the most used form of public transport at 31percent, though people were dissatisfied with driver behaviour.
Only 3,7 percent of respondents used buses to get to work in Gauteng, and Metrobus hoped to increase this by growing its services to areas where it was previously not available.
Shongwe said the Soweto to Sunninghill route introduced last year had already shown a surge in demand.
"After starting with about three buses we now have 11 or 12 doing that route, to show that wherever we go, people need convenient transport," he said.