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Bid to tackle Gauteng bus transport woes

New modern city bus - Stock image
New modern city bus - Stock image

The Roads and Transport Portfolio Committee in Gauteng led by chairperson Jacob Khawe has rolled up its sleeves to find an amicable solution to bus transport challenges in Soshanguve and Hammanskraal‚ north of Tshwane.

As part of its oversight mandate over the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport‚ the committee is currently conducting an oversight at Soshanguve where they scrutinized causes for delays in the Public Utility Transport Corporation (Putco) bus services in the township.

The committee met with Putco’s general manager Romeo More at the Soshanguve depot business unit offices on Thursday where they aired they concerns to him.

“I don’t think you’re treating the commuters fairly... We [the portfolio committee] are not happy with the services you are providing. You promised us that you are upgrading [the services] and also said to us in confidence that by 2017‚ we will never have broken and plastic windows but we saw them‚” Khawe told More.

The chairperson’s remarks come after commuters complained to the committee about poor services from the bus service.

 He added that the committee had been inundated with reports from Putco management about the poor condition of Putco buses‚ including the constant breakdowns.

During the inspection‚ commuters said there was no justification for the price hike of 8% of bus fees which will come into effect on April 1‚ as there bus services were “appalling“.

More acknowledged the problems and indicated that the challenges were historical but that they were making efforts to address them.

“We have owned up to the problems and our problems have history that the company‚ provincial and national government have been discussing since 2009. Buses are our most difficult problem and our bus system is not satisfactory.”

More said a subsidy cut of 17% since 2009 was the root cause of these problem raised by commuters‚ saying that they only receive a small portion from government which makes the service difficult to sustain.

According to More‚ Soshanguve is short of 42 buses to cover the backlog of buses from the 21 buses they received in January this year. He said the shortage could be resolved but Putco does not have the financial resources to pay the supplier.

However‚ Khawe said the issue of government subsidizing Putco should not be used as a scapegoat because that was not the community issue.

At a Southern African Transport Conference in Pretoria last year‚ National Treasury intergovernmental relations deputy director-general Malijeng Ngqaleni said South African public transport operators needed “to do more with less” as the economy contracted and the national fiscus faced increasing financial pressure.

Ngqalemi noted that the current system of public transport subsidies was “clearly not sustainable“.

 This system largely subsidised the middle-class through subsidies to train and bus services‚ such as Metrorail and Gautrain‚ and not the poor‚ who primarily used the unsubsidised minibus taxi system.

Putco currently provides commuter bus services in Gauteng‚ Limpopo and the western parts of Mpumalanga.

On Friday‚ the Provincial Roads and Transport Department will appear before the portfolio committee to discuss the state of bus subsidy in the province as well as to discuss the their quarterly report for 2016/17 financial year.

 A formal inquiry on services provided by Putco and North West Star — which falls under Gauteng after demarcation in the previous political term — will convene between 23 and 24 March in Johannesburg.

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