Resentment of fuel cost at breaking point

2008-03-05 00:00

Public resentment at the ever-rising cost of fuel has reached breaking point as the price topped R8 a litre yesterday, warned AA spokesman Gary Ronald.

"We’ve been telling the government for years that it’s vital to jack up the public transport systems," Ronald told The Witness last night. "We told them that a time would come when the public would have to use alternative forms of transport because petrol was becoming too costly.

"Well, that time has come. And when people look round for other modes of transport, such as buses and trains, they are shocked to see how limited it is. What’s worse is that the situation is not going to get any better."

The Transport Department insists that it is going full-steam ahead with its public transport strategies.

Spokesman Collen Msibi said yesterday that the integrated rapid public transport networks and bus rapid transit system, currently being implemented in Gauteng, has been given the green light by cabinet for roll out in 12 metropolitan areas, including Pietermaritzburg.

He agreed the high fuel price makes such transport imperative.

"But people have got to realise that they must also help the situation. That is why we are actively encouraging ride-sharing in passenger vehicles … "

Ronald agrees. "Single-occupant cars are the biggest contributor to traffic congestion and wasted fuel. It’s essential that motorists start to change their mindsets."

But lift clubs, too, have problems, he points out. "Because expenses are shared, money changes hands and this is considered a transaction. So you have to get a public transportation permit …"

One way round this is "car-pooling". With this method you may get four car owners, who will each use his (or her) own car for one week in a month to transport the others at his "own expense" and no money changes hands.

Some employers encourage staff to share the ride to and from work by allowing the use of company vehicles. Staff pay a share to offset additional petrol, maintenance and insurance costs. As most company vehicles are not used after business hours, this system can benefit both employers and employees.

One of the hardest hit sectors is the taxi industry. The SA National Taxi Council warned that its members would hike fares by R1 a trip, especially in view of the increase of 11 cents a litre Road Accident Fund levy coming in April. For the present, major bus and rail services are not raising their ticket prices.

AA managing director Ed Kok says: "South African motorists now have to consider fuel consumption more carefully … The difference between a car that uses seven litres/100 km and one that averages 12 litres/100 km can … [cost] R625 a month on a vehicle that travels only 20 000 km a year."

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