Commuters still in limbo

2020-03-03 06:02
The Mitchell’s Plain MyCiTi bus depot at Town Centre remains closed.PHOTO: Samantha Lee-Jacobs

The Mitchell’s Plain MyCiTi bus depot at Town Centre remains closed.PHOTO: Samantha Lee-Jacobs

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Around 20 000 monthly MyCiTi bus commuters who made use of the N2 Express line are still stranded following a nine-month suspension as a result of a lapsed contract.

The operating contract between the City of Cape Town and the joint venture came to an end at the end of May 2019 and the service has since been suspended.

The joint venture is made up of the Route 6 Taxi Association, Golden Arrow Bus services (GABS) and the Cape Organisation of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta).

“The operating contract with the current shareholders of the N2 Express service came to an end on Friday 31 May 2019. The contract initially entered into was for a period of three years and thereafter extended for 23 months,” says Mayco member for transport, Felicity Purchase.

“We have left no stone unturned to conclude a new agreement with the current shareholders of the N2 Express service. The City has, over the past few months, hosted a number of engagements with the shareholders in an effort to resolve the matter; and the national department of transport also hosted meetings with the shareholders,” says Purchase.

Following the suspension of the service, the City issued notice for an interim operator in September last year.

“The City of Cape Town regrets to inform MyCiTi commuters that the N2 Express Company shareholders have failed to meet the deadline for the service to be reinstated on Saturday 28 September 2019. Given that the City now has to proceed with a supply chain management process to appoint an interim service provider, the N2 Express service will only start operating by December 2019, if all goes as planned,” reads a statement issued by Purchase.

The City advertised a request for quotation (RFQ) calling on vehicle operating companies to submit bids for operating the N2 Express service between Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha and the Cape Town central business district (CBD) on an interim basis.

“The interim service provider will operate the four N2 Express routes until such time as the City has appointed a permanent vehicle operating company to provide the N2 Express service for a five year period,” the statement continued.

While Golden Arrow Bus services and the Route 6 Taxi Association both confirmed in writing their commitment to continue in time for the deadline, Codeta did not.

“The City cannot wait any longer for the shareholders to set aside their internal disagreements. Neither do we have the mandate to intervene in matters that are for the shareholders to resolve,” continues Purchase.

Codeta has since laid criminal charges against the City, demanding new terms for the contract and expressing its unhappiness with regard to what it calls “irregularities”.

Codeta did not wish to comment any further on this matter.

In a statement released by the organisation, it said the City had acknowledged irregularities and had jumped the gun in advertising the interim contract.

“The City, the mayor, parties from the national department of transport and [Transport] MEC [Bongani] Madikizela alike have publicly acknowledged the irregularities which persisted under the N2 Express contract, and yet the City as the transport authority seeks to perpetuate the same irregularities over another interim term,” said Codeta in the statement.

In filing a court interdict against the City, Codeta said: “Shortly after the matter was heard in court, the parties embarked on negotiations with a view to find a solution that would secure the resumption of the service as soon as possible, however this process failed as the divide between the parties and stakeholders was far too great.”

Since the suspension and then advertisement for an interim operator, the service remains suspended. 

“We have stated before that we will inform commuters once the service is ready to start operating again,” she says. 

However, at this stage no date has been confirmed.

The service was launched in July 2014 with a total of 43 buses running the four routes.

While uncertainty still remains around the reinstatement of the service, work will continue to complete the bus stations in Khayelitsha.

“The supply chain management process is still ongoing for both the provision of professional services and the construction component,” says Purchase.

As part of this, the City recently signed a R300 million deal with the Dutch government that will see the service expand even further.

“This constructive collaboration between the City and the Dutch government dates back to June 2012 when the City successfully applied for the project to be considered. In October 2015 a contract was signed for the development phase of the project and the funding was used for devising a project plan for the implementation, operation and maintenance of the trunk and feeder routes of Phase 2A of the MyCiTi service between Khayelitsha and Wynberg and Claremont,” reads a statement by Purchase. “This time around the R300 million grant funding will be spent on the construction of new trunk routes and feeder routes for the MyCiTi buses, as well as bus stops and stations, and a bus depot in Khayelitsha. Given that the MyCiTi service will be connecting commuters with other modes of transport, such as minibus-taxis and trains, the funding will also assist in improving the public transport interchanges in Nolungile, Vuyani and Nyanga.”

Around 5 000 passengers made use of the service during the peak-hour period on weekdays on the N2 Express way from Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain to the Cape Town CBD.

Buleka Nkosana was one such passenger and says her travel time and budget have increased considerably since the suspension of the service.

“We were excited when we heard MyCiti was coming to Khayelitsha because we knew we would be able to get to work quickly. I now need to take the train and the services are not reliable because the cables are stolen or the trains are late and full,” says Nkosana. 

She adds they need to also take other modes of transport with multiple changes which costs more. 

Melissa Arendse says the depot at Town Centre is a white elephant.

“This depot was built and so much money was spent on it. Now it stands empty. Either they must get the service back or they must sell it. I hate to see such a good idea become another waste of money,” she says.

Denver Appolis says he made use of the service to more than just to the CBD.

“I am just glad that we at least still have the other buses running because taxis can become expensive and the trains are never on time. I would like to know when this will be back or if it will ever be back so that we can again enjoy the development in infrastructure,” he says.

The buses that were operational along the route will be ready to start operating again once the service is reinstated, says Purchase.

“We are still working towards a solution that could see the current shareholders of the N2 Express service recommencing with the operations,” says Purchase. “A solution that will see the current shareholders of the N2 Express service commencing with operations is considered to be the speediest given the legislative constraints. 

“The City is eager to see the service reinstated as soon as possible,” says Purchase.

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