New public transport regulations welcomed

2020-04-21 06:00
Provincial minister of transport and public works, Bonginkosi Madikizela welcomed the revised restrictions around public transport during the lockdown.

Provincial minister of transport and public works, Bonginkosi Madikizela welcomed the revised restrictions around public transport during the lockdown. (Samantha Lee-Jacobs)

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Western Cape authorities have welcomed the decision to revise restrictions around public transport during the nationwide lockdown.

The national minister of transport, Fikile Mbalula has issued new directives to extend the operating times of public transport services that are transporting essential workers, and to increase the loading capacity of minibus-taxi vehicles during the lockdown period.

Minibus-taxis are now permitted to transport 70% of their passenger capacity: those licensed to transport 10 are now limited to seven passengers; those licensed to transport 15 are now limited to 10 passengers; a midi-bus licensed to transport 22 passengers is limited to 15 passengers.

“The vehicle capacity can be increased to 100% if all passengers, inclusive of the driver, are wearing surgical masks or N95 respiratory masks as per the directives gazetted,” read a statement.

The new regulations took effect from Saturday 4 April.

During the morning peak-hour period, taxi drivers will be allowed to travel to the pick-up points as from 04:00, but may only start loading passengers at 05:00. All passengers must be offloaded by 11:00, and no passengers may board the taxi after 10:00.

Drivers can travel to pickup points from 15:00, but may only start loading passengers at 16:00. All passengers must be offloaded by 21:00, and no passengers may board the taxi after 20:00.

From Friday 27 March, restrictions left passengers across the province stranded, with taxi and bus depots empty.

The restrictions permitted only five people per taxi.

Frustrated commuters took to Facebook sharing videos of hundreds of people standing stranded on street corners and at bus stops.

Initially, Mbulula said no taxis would be permitted to travel and then introduced restrictions on the time they could travel.

Michael Barns, a factory worker says he was one of the hundreds of people stranded.

“I have no choice but to take public transport. It is more affordable for me. If I had to get an Uber, it would cost me R600 a round trip per day and I cannot afford that,” he says.

“I was stranded on Friday, 3 April, morning. We are considered essential business because of what we manufacture. I could not even ask anyone to give me a lift because they were not allowed to leave their house. I was docked the pay but had no choice.”

Barns supports a family of five, including his frail mother who lives with him.

“I was very worried about how this would affect us. It is chaos out there and my mother cannot move around alone. We always accompanied her where she needed to go for doctors visits and other trips. We always used public transport,” he says.

Barns was unaware of the new regulations and said he was hopeful that it would help ease the congestion in the mornings and also make it more worthwhile for the drivers.

Lizelle Ockhuis says she is happy she and other essential commuters can now get to work on time.

“Hundreds of people waiting and taxis taking only five at a time meant we were there from early in the morning just hoping we would be in time to be one of the five. I hope there will be more order now, and that people can get where they want to and need to be quicker,” she says.

But this also means many will be left stranded without a means of getting home before taxis start operating again in the afternoons.

“We have established a provincial transport coordinating committee and we are meeting daily to address issues with our partners in the public transport sector. I’m urging public transport operators to please adhere to the strict health and safety measures as issued by the national government. These measures oblige all operators to ensure that public transport vehicles are sanitised before picking up and after dropping off passengers; to sanitise all door and window handles, armrests and handrails before picking up and dropping off passengers; and to ensure that all public transport vehicles are clean and tidy,” said the provincial minister of transport and public works, Bonginkosi Madikizela. 

In line with new public transport regulations, the following applies.

MyCiTi bus service:

  • No standing is allowed on buses;
  • Buses are allowed to transport half (50%) of its passenger capacity: 18m buses can transport 59 people, inclusive of the driver; the 12m Volvo buses 43, inclusive of the driver; the 12m Scania buses 48, inclusive of the driver; and the 9m buses are allowed to transport 25 people, inclusive of the driver;
  • The service is currently operating according to the Sunday service schedule to transport residents who need to collect their social grants;
  • As from Saturday 4 April, the service will operate from 05:00 to 10:00 and again from 16:00 to 20:00 daily, in line with the regulations relating to the national state of disaster;
  • All bus drivers have been issued with masks and gloves;
  • Passengers who board at a bus stop can use the hand sanitiser that is placed next to the validators at the left-hand door;
  • Passengers boarding at stations should use the sanitiser that is available at these facilities;
  • Passengers are also requested to please travel with their own hand sanitiser as well, and to wash their hands as often as possible with soap and water for 20 seconds;

Buses and stations are cleaned regularly in line with Covid-19 requirements.

“Commuters should please avoid trips that are unnecessary. This is critical to fighting the spread of Covid-19. Only use the bus if you absolutely have to. This includes shopping for food and accessing healthcare, or social grants. If you do travel, wash your hands often, practise social distancing, avoid touching common surfaces and don’t touch your face. Wash your hands again after getting off the bus. Don’t travel if you are sick, and avoid contact with fellow passengers,” says Mayco member for transport, Felicity Purchase.

Normal rules apply for Peak and Saver (off-peak) travel and passengers must continue to tap in at the start of their journey and tap out at the end.

Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS):

GABS is providing transport services during the lockdown in line with the times that have been gazetted.

  • Drivers have all been issued with gloves, masks and hand sanitiser;
  • All buses are regularly sanitised with specialised surface cleaner;
  • Passengers are requested to please adhere to carrying capacity and personal hygiene protocols
  • E-hailing and metred-taxis;
  • As from Saturday 4 April, operators can now only transport passengers from 05:00 to 10:00 and again from 16:00 to 20:00 daily, in line with the regulations relating to the national state of disaster
  • A vehicle licensed to transport four passengers is limited to carrying 50% of their permissible passenger-carrying capacity – thus, only two passengers are allowed in the vehicle

Transport services for essential workers:

  • Private institutions or companies may make arrangements for the transportation of their workers who are rendering essential services in line with their operating shifts and work time schedules;
  • The operating shifts or work schedules or time table should be stamped and signed by the relevant manager. 

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