Gautrain pushes meter taxis off the profit track

2010-07-17 10:58

Meter-taxi drivers operating between OR Tambo International Airport

in Kempton Park and Sandton were still smarting after Fifa World Cup tourists

opted for the faster, modern Gautrain.

With their hopes of making a killing during the World Cup dashed,

meter-taxi drivers now face the reality that the Gautrain has fundamentally

changed travel for good on this route.

The Gautrain has transported 400 000 people since it launched last

month, some of whom just wanted to experience this mode of transport.

Meter taxis charge up to R500 for a single trip on this route,

while the journey costs R100 on the Gautrain.

“We, as micro businesses, have been affected a lot as it now takes

longer for our taxis to get commuters,” said ­Hendrik Mphela, chairperson of

Ekurhuleni Meter Taxi Council and Oriata, a taxi association operating at the

airport.

A meter-taxi driver who preferred to remain anonymous said he had

seen his earnings half in the month the Gautrain had been operating. “Before the

Gautrain, I used to make five daily trips to Sandton, but now I celebrate if I

manage to make three trips.”

The Gautrain service runs from 5.30am until 8.30pm daily.

“Demand for taxis starts increasing after the Gautrain stops

operating in the evening until around midnight,” the anonymous driver

said.

Mphela said though meter taxis could not do much to compete with

the Gautrain, it would have been better had taxi associations been given a

tender to transport commuters to the stations. Commuters are currently ­being

transported by the buses run by Bombela Operating Company, operators of the

Gautrain.

These buses operate within a 15km radius of the stations and the

taxi ­drivers say they should be stopped so that they can take over the

routes.

Mphela said: “The Gautrain officials knew their services would have

an impact on the taxi industry, but they failed to consult us to develop a plan

that would see us sustain ­business.”

Speaking to City Press, Mphela said he met with the Gautrain

officials on June 7 – a day before the train service was launched – to complain

about how it was going to derail the taxi industry.

“I proposed at the meeting that we should be given the feeder

tender to transport commuters to the stations, but the officials have not given

me feedback on the matter,” said Mphela.

Barbara Jensen, spokesperson for Bombela, said the affected

meter-taxi operator representatives in the Alexandra area had agreed to the

setting up of a company that to provide feeder services to the Marlboro

station.

“Furthermore, meter-taxi operators have already been accredited and

are operating from the Gautrain ­station in Sandton,” said Jensen.

However, Sifiso Molotshwa, a ­meter-taxi operator in Sandton,

­disagreed. “These Gautrain buses are killing us because people who catch

flights used to use our services but now everyone ends up on the Gautrain buses

because they are cheaper.”

The Gautrain buses are subsidised by the government.

A single ticket for a Gautrain bus to a Gautrain station costs R6,

but this only applies to a passenger who is also going to catch the train. A

commuter pays R20 in between stations if they are not going to take the train.


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