SABOA – checking out changes

SABOA – checking out changes

SABOA recently held a conference on changes in the bus and coach environment. JACO DE KLERK reports.

The bus industry has, for many years, played a vital role in the social and economic development of the country. The Southern African Bus Operators Association (SABOA), Gauteng branch, held a conference on the changes in the bus and coach environment at Pavilion Hall – in Randburg – on October 18.

There are approximately 30 600 people working directly in the public transport industry and a further 153 000 dependant on its services for their livelihood – not counting those working for the suppliers of buses, fuel, tyres and other items needed to keep the bus services running.

The conference started with registration, accompanied by tea and coffee, which gave everyone a chance to find their footing. Chairperson, Imogene Mncwango, handled the welcoming formalities, thanked the sponsors, and managed the proceedings throughout the day. The sponsors included Shell (as main sponsor), Standard Bank Finance, PUTCO, NTI and C-Track.

Ismail Vadi, MEC for Roads and Public Transport, presented the keynote address wherein he addressed fake licences and corruption. He mentioned an incident where a licence testing officer asked one of his family members if they would like “to go one way or the other”, meaning that with some “persuasion” they could be guaranteed a licence.

Vadi said he had a stick in his hand (law enforcement), with which he could beat the problem. Roadblocks will be set up to check for fake licences, although he acknowledged that, in many cases, this may cause traffic back-ups. He gave an undertaking that these wouldn’t be scheduled during the morning rush-hour.

An overview of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the metropolitan area of Johannesburg, with specific reference to the involvement of bus operators in this project, was given by Lisa Seftel, who opened with the statement that public transport lacks accessibility and reliability. She also explained current progress, as well as the future plans of the BRT system, which aims to put 85% of Johannesburg’s population within 500 m of a Rea Vaya (bus service) trunk or feeder corridor.

Phase 1A produced 25,5 km of trunk route, as well as three complementary and five feeder routes. This phase also delivered 27 Rea Vaya passenger service stations, serving an average 40 000 passengers per day.

Phase 1B will produce 18,5 km of trunk route from Noorgesig to Parktown. This will pass Metro Centre, travel down Rissik and Harrison streets, and link with the T1 Toll. This phase will add 15 new stations to Rea Vaya and is scheduled for completion by April 2012.

Phase 1C will stretch from Sandton, via Louis Botha Avenue, to Alexandra township. The aim of this is to enhance the public transport at Alexandra and form a channel from the central business district to Sandton. According to Seftel, the construction of this part of the project may cause problems for people using private transport in Sandton.

Alex van Niekerk, from the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), provided an update on the Gauteng freeway toll system. Van Niekerk stated that Gauteng, even though it is the smallest province in size, generates 33% of the economic growth in the country. As a result, Gauteng’s extensive freeway network carries between 100 000 and
200 000 vehicles per day, causing it to reach capacity and require improvement.

This gave birth to the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) which, according to Van Niekerk, is nearing completion of the first phase. The project has already upgraded 201 km of freeway, added 585 km of lanes and produced four new directional ramps.

The presentation on “a viable remuneration model for scholar transport” was delivered by Chris Britz from Khuthele Projects. He stated that only 13% of all school trips are made by public transport, pointing out that there are two types of scholar transport services provided by the industry.

The first comprises dedicated services, which, in turn, can be divided into subsidised and non-subsidised operations. With the former, as the name suggests, operators receive a full subsidy from the Department of Transport or the Department of Education, while non-subsidised services are funded by parents, who pay the operators.

The second type is subsidised and non-dedicated commuter transport services, where scholars may use special subsidised tickets for general public transport travel.

According to Britz, the remuneration rate for dedicated contracted and subsidised scholar transport services is between 25c to 35c per scholar, per km travelled. This amount is paid regardless of the size of the vehicle or the condition of the road.  He believes the compensation should rather be calculated by dividing total costs of the operation with total kilometres travelled.

Alta Swanepoel, from the law firm Alta Swanepoel & Associates enlightened the guests with an update on the Road Traffic Act and its regulations, with special emphasis on amendments and ad hoc changes applicable to the bus and coach environment. She also added several interesting facts; one being that a traffic officer must have a nametag on their uniform in order to charge a member of the public.

Swanepoel also pointed out that, since November 1 of last year, the roadworthy certificates of buses have to be renewed every six months instead of the usual 12. In addition to this, the acceptability of foreign roadworthy certificates has also been restricted to foreign vehicles only, which could cause difficulties for companies operating across Africa.

The conference was informative on a variety of subjects and definitely enlightened all attending on the changes in the bus and coach environment.

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