Santaco lobbies for new subsidies

2013-06-30 14:00

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The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) this week launched an aggressive campaign to win new subsidies for the taxi business.

At the same time, it wants the government to elevate it to the status of a regulator, registrar and standards-setting body.

Santaco published the first of what promises to be a quarterly Taxi Fare Index – showing what fares actually need to be in order to make the country’s major mode of public transport self-sustaining.

The headline finding is that long-distance fares are 29% too low, while those for rural commuters are 69% too low.

Taxi fares in Gauteng are R5.84 too low and in Cape Town they are R6.81 too low, according to the index.

Nkululeko Buthelezi, Santaco’s CEO, told City Press they are not actually advocating that taxi fares be raised by up to 70%.

Instead, the figures are meant to help the industry “engage government for the subsidy”.

“We might be seen to be surviving when that is not true,” he said.

“We cannot rule out raising fares, but not necessarily to these figures,” he said.

The index takes into account 19 different cost factors and will be adjusted every three months.

There are about 6?000 distinct taxi routes in the country, ranging from short urban commutes to travel between the country’s major cities.

Santaco chose four routes for the index that are “statistically representative” of the bulk of taxi routes, says Buthelezi.

He readily admits that the index requires further work and, according to Santaco’s release, the figures stem from research conducted “within the limits of the resources available to Santaco”.

The costs factored in include the financing of the minibus, fuel, tyres, maintenance and wages.

On top of that, Santaco added a profit margin of 16% which, according to Buthelezi, is the going margin for bus operators.

Santaco also released the first edition of its new quarterly journal, Public Transport Policy, this week.

The first edition mostly makes the case for a taxi subsidy at the expense of the bus and rail sectors.

In an essay in the journal, Buthelezi writes that “the newly found passion and focus on very expensive and unsustainable so-called world-class services like the Bus Rapid Transit and Rapid Rail” have led to “dwindling” support for the taxi industry from government.

“Why are taxi commuters still not receiving a subsidy 19 years into our democracy and 56 years since bus subsidies were introduced?” he asks.

“This is a case of the poor supporting the rich to travel luxuriously.”

Buthelezi also attacks the R10?billion spent in subsidies for the manufacture of private automobiles.

The Santaco journal also presents the council’s main comments on the National Land Transport Amendment Bill, which was released for comment in March this year.

According to Santaco, the taxi industry desperately needs an overall regulator that will register everything from routes to drivers.

The council goes further and proposes that Santaco itself should become that regulator through changes to the bill.

Buthelezi dismisses questions about where that would leave its rival, the National Taxi Alliance (NTA).

“The NTA, or whatever you want to call it, can keep organising, but we are looking to being elevated above that.”

One of the functions Santaco would propose, if elevated to the status of a regulator, is to maintain a central registry of taxi drivers, says Buthelezi.

Among other things, this would allow for the screening of drivers entering the industry.

“Santaco has a strong national, provincial and regional structure. It is the obvious body to act as the professional-standards body for the entire industry,” the journal piece opined.

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