MEC reads riot act to bus firm

2010-04-09 00:00

CONTROVERSIAL long-distance bus operator SA Roadlink will be brought under stringent operational measures, KwaZulu-Natal Transport MEC Willies Mchunu announced yesterday.

None of SA Roadlink’s buses will enter KZN or leave its depots in Durban without being subjected to roadworthiness inspections, he said.

Mchunu, visibly angry, told a press conference at the KZN Provincial Legislature in Pietermaritzburg the decision was taken because the company continues to operate unsafe buses, putting the lives of passengers at risk.

“Experience and a body of evidence suggests to us in government that SA Roadlink proves to be our weakest link in the attainment of our fundamental goals of a safe public transport system.

“In the interests of the safety of our commuters and the total adherence to road traffic regulations, the department has taken strict measures,” said Mchunu.

Mchunu said an instruction has been issued to the Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU), also known as Operation Shanela, to ensure that every SA Roadlink bus that enters the province is inspected.

The company’s buses will not be allowed to leave its three depots in and around Durban without a pre-trip inspection by experienced PTEU officers.

Among other things, the vehicle and driver will be checked for vehicle safety and compliance.

Vehicle and operator licences will be required, including a professional driver’s permit and a certificate of roadworthiness.

Drivers’ alcohol levels will also be monitored.

“Road Traffic Inspectorate officers will be deployed at the roadside to strictly monitor the speed these buses travel at,” said Mchunu.

“The department will engage with the department of Trade and Industry with a view to investigating SA Roadlink for any manufacturing defects through the South African National Standards Authority.”

The MEC also disclosed that a co-ordinated, inter-provincial strategy to deal with SA Roadlink is being developed by the province and the Road Traffic Management Corporation.

Evidence will be collected to strengthen their application to declare SA Roadlink unfit, by engaging with other provinces, he added.

When approached yesterday for comment, SA Roadlink spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant said: “They [the department] have not told us anything.

“We have not had any communication from the department. We know nothing at this stage.”

December 2006: nine buses suspended for being unroadworthy; a bus suspended at Park Rynie by the Road Traffic Inspectorate after the driver drove the bus for about 1 500 km from Cape Town to Durban, despite having been involved in a collision at Beaufort West; 12 people killed and many injured when a bus hit a bridge on the N3 southbound near Liberty Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg, and a bus driver arrested at Mariannhill Toll Plaza for drinking and driving.

2008: 43 people injured when a bus overturned on the N3 southbound near Paradise Valley; 13 people injured when a bus hit a stationary bus on the N3 South Balgowan area; bus suspended at Mkhondeni testing ground for being unroadworthy; 11 people killed when a bus rear-ended a truck, which in turn collided head-on with a Toyota Camry; bus suspended at Ladysmith by Road Traffic Inspectorate for being unroadworthy, and bus broke down at 5 am, leaving passengers stranded for 15 hours.

2010: bus gutted on the N3 near Balgowan and 68 passengers and crew lost all their luggage and personal belongings; bus broke down in Mooi River en route from Durban to Johannesburg, leaving passengers stranded for 13 hours.

 

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