UPROAR OVER BUS CLOSURE

COMMUTERS in Durban are about to face a transport crisis since many of them might be left stranded or forced to seek alternative transport when the Remant Alton buses cease operations in the city.

COMMUTERS in Durban are about to face a transport crisis since many of them might be left stranded or forced to seek alternative transport when the Remant Alton buses cease operations in the city.

eThekwini municipality mayor Obed Mlaba announced two weeks ago that the bus company would stop the service today because of its "financially unsustainable" status.

Some 1000 bus workers are without jobs.

Yesterday the city said an alternative bus operator would be appointed on July 10 and the service is expected to resume shortly after that.

The city was also in discussion with Metro Rail and other public transport operators to assist commuters.

MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele yesterday appealed for patience, saying he had intervened and spoken to city officials.

Remant Alton, a BEE company, was awarded the contract to operate the city's buses in 2003 at R70million.

Soon after the takeover complaints from commuters about poor service escalated. This was followed by a drivers' strike supported by commuters.

In March this year the bus service was suspended by the city after Remant Alton said it could not continue with the operation with only 150 buses out of the initial fleet of 500 in operation.

Yesterday bus drivers blocked the N2 Inkosi Albert Luthuli Highway to s the Durban Airport in protest against the closure.

The police stepped in and dispersed the protestors.

Transport Workers Union of South Africa spokesperson Mike Biyela said the drivers had not been paid their salaries or severance packages.

Talks between the bus company and workers ended in deadlock last week.

The drivers, through their unions, called for the meeting after media reports that the company was to shut down the service.

Shutting down the service will also mean that bus commuters will have to pay double the fare travelling on taxis and trains.

The Durban transport consultative committee representing commuters has threatened to bring the city to a standstill if the city did not take back the service.

The bus company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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