Are we actually mad?

Are we actually mad?

We’ve all witnessed the deplorable way public transport operates on our roads. Perhaps it’s time for senior officials to experience it for themselves.


As I write this, I’m in a shuttle on my way back to Johannesburg from a media briefing in another town – the trip there and back has given me time to do some observing and thinking.

It’s not often I am driven somewhere. Nine times out of ten I will drive myself to a media event and, if our contingent has been flown somewhere, the shuttle drive to our destination is normally around 15 or 20 minutes at most. Today, it’s 200-odd kilometers and takes two hours – with someone else behind the wheel of the seven-seat minivan we’re squashed into.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a control freak; I don’t need to be behind the wheel. Nor am I (usually) a nervous passenger: I’ve plenty a time surrendered myself to other drivers I’d not known from a bar of soap – usually to have my internals rearranged at breakneck speed on some of the country’s racetracks, with nothing but a smile on my face. But here’s the crux: these are normally highly skilled and trained drivers, who understand vehicle dynamics and control. As such, I feel safe being in their hands at over twice the speed limit.

And, therein lies the conundrum: on this drive, we have gone down a one way street; experienced late braking on several occasions; and witnessed a bus overtaking another at a stupid speed (ourselves being overtaken too). We were also (and I kid you not) overtaken by someone on the – wait for it – shoulder of the highway, near roadworks, in the rain!

At least our driver didn’t exceed the speed limit … Nevertheless, for the first time in my life I was given a slight idea of what it must be like to be a regular minibus-taxi passenger.

The irony in all this is that the event attended was a local government briefing on an upcoming integrated public transport system – I’m sure you can see how all this got me thinking.

Training, skill, patience, forethought and foresight are rare attributes on our roads. It has long been said, by those far more in the know than me, that the K53 licensing system is hopelessly inadequate – the majority of drivers on our roads are scarily inadequately trained. It’s a fact. 

Those supplying the service of public transport are no better qualified. PrDP or not. Every time we leave our driveways, we take the chance of placing our vehicles and, more importantly, ourselves at risk. Every time a citizen boards a public transport vehicle – one that should be reliable, safe and run like clockwork – they place their life in someone else’s hands.

Worse still, despite the mouthing by government officials, the situation is unlikely to change anytime soon – unless (wishfully) their air-bagged, air-conditioned, blue-lighted luxury sedans are (randomly and anonymously) swapped for the daily commute on any one of the average citizen’s public transport options.

If only.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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