City to run buses

2014-02-26 00:00

THE eThekwini Municipality, tired of the troublesome Durban bus transport system, yesterday resolved to take over the operations. At a full council meeting the city agreed to the establishment of a municipal entity to run the service.

Durban’s bus service has proved problematic since the city decided to privatise it in 2003 when it was sold to the Remant (Pty) Ltd and Alton Coach Africa Consortium owned by Jay Singh for R70 million. In 2008, the municipality bought back the service, paying R405 million for the buses and equipment.

In 2009 the municipality contracted Tansnat as the Durban Bus Service operator, and it’s been a bumpy ride for the municipality since then.

In December 2013, the city paid the operator R8,1 million in advance to avert disruptions to the services. This after the company failed to pay employee salaries due to cash flow problems.

At the time, municipal manager Sbu Sithole advised council that an urgent decision needed to be taken on the future of the company to ensure that commuters were not affected by operational matters. In January, the company was reported to have diesel supply problems and the municipality had to intervene.

Addressing councillors, Sithole said a report from consultants hired by the municipality to find a working solution on taking over the service indicated that the council had three options to chose from. The council could use an internal municipal department to provide Durban Transport Services, or establish a municipal entity, or have a private company running the service. The second option meant that municipal systems will be utilised, and that the operator will be directly accountable to the municipality.

“The entity will have its own staff complement, CEO, and council will assume an oversight role. We will look at the business plan and cost of the entity but in the end we must be able to take over the transport services,” said Sithole.

No new operator will be outsourced. Tansnat will continue as an operator on a month-to-month bases until the entity is up and running.

While Sithole is working on the establishment of the entity, a team was put in place to work with Tansnat to ensure the smooth running of the services and minimise the operational problems the company experienced in the past.

DA councillor Zwakele Mncwango said if council goes the entity way, then there should be more than one operator. “This operator has failed to run its affairs. It looks like we are taking a decision to rescue a failing company and making it part of the municipality.”

Sithole countered that there was no guarantee that more than one operator would mean successful operations.

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