buses to come back
Durban's buses are expected to be back in operation - possibly by the end of the week - ending commuters' frustration and long queues at taxi ranks and train stations.
Officials from the provincial transport department and eThekwini municipality met late yesterday to decide when the service should begin operating.
Chris Hlabisa, head of the provincial transport department, said the meeting was expected to approve a new service provider and when the service could resume. The name of the proposed service provider is known to Sowetan.
"We cannot reveal the name of the new service provider just yet, not until they have agreed to the terms and conditions and signed the contract. All stakeholders have to make a decision. We will then brief transport MEC Bheki Cele before making a formal announcement," he said.
Hlabisa said the earmarked company had met all the requirements of the contract. The new company would operate under the same conditions as Remant Alton until October 2010.
Hlabisa said the province did not want any disruptions to the city's transport system before the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup next June.
"The buses will be leased to the new service provider should all stakeholders agree. We want the service to begin running as soon as possible for the benefit of hundreds of stranded commuters," he said.
Durban's bus service came to a halt a week ago when the black economic empowerment operator Remant Alton closed shop after declaring that it lacked the funds to continue operating the city's buses.
Remant Alton was awarded a R70million contract in 2003 to operate the service. Consumers started complaining about poor service soon thereafter. In March, the city bought the buses back for R405million, though only 150 of the fleet of 500 Remant Alton had used were still operational.
Remant Alton was supposed to continue the service and employ drivers and other workers, but it was forced to close last month, stranding thousands of commuters.
The Transport Workers Union of SA, which represents the city's bus drivers, said even if its members returned to work this week, they would not be paid for the time that the bus service was suspended.
"Our members have lost out. We demand a probe into Remant Alton's running of the service. We are not satisfied that the company now claims to be bankrupt," said union spokesperson Zack Mankge.