The Competition Commission says it has referred the state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and its subsidiary, bus operator Autopax, to the Competition Tribunal for alleged abuse of dominance.
The competition watchdog says following an investigation of complaints by various long-distance bus operators, it found that that Prasa restricted or denied access to Johannesburg Park Station to Autopax competitors, and charged them "excessive" fees for the use of the transport hub.
Prasa is the sole owner and manager of intermodal terminal facilities in the country - including Park Station - and its subsidiary operates two bus services, Translux and City to City, which services long distance routes linking major cities.
Its competitors are Unitrans Passenger, the owner of Greyhound, Citi Liner and Megabus; InterCape, Eldo Coaches, Africa People Mover (APM) and Moolla’s Transport Services, among others, who had complained to the commission about Prasa's conduct.
'Prasa favours Autopax'
"The Commission also found that Prasa favours Autopax in space allocation and has restricted or denied access to Park Station bus operators, who are competitors to Autopax," the Commission said in a statement on Monday.
According to the Commission, Prasa in December 2013 introduced a Pay-on-Use system at Park Station, with hourly access fees per bus. The access fee is currently R480 per hour per bus for access to loading bays at Park Station. In addition, Prasa charges a penalty of R150 for every additional 15 minutes.
The system is said to have significantly increased the bus operators' costs of access, threatening their sustainability, and the commission said it was concerned that the costs were being passed on to consumers.
The payment system was only introduced at Park Station, not at other facilities in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.
Previous application dismissed
In November, the Tribunal dismissed an interim relief application by a privately-owned bus company, Africa People Mover (APM), which sought to stop Prasa from preventing it from accessing Park Station over unpaid fees.
The emerging black-owned company, which is based in Pretoria, had accused Prasa of exclusionary behaviour.
The Tribunal had ruled that there was no evidence that Prasa’s conduct was anything other than rational business behaviour, as opposed to an abuse of dominance, as alleged by APM.