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SA Roadlink has vowed to improve its services with a fleet of new buses and inspectors throughout the country.
But Western Cape Transport and Public Works MEC Robin Carlisle, who has had the company in his sights over unroadworthy buses, said his department would not be relaxing its vigilance on long-distance transportation.
In the past three years 160 SA Roadlink buses have been stopped, 14 in the last month. Translux, City to City and Greyhound had eight buses pulled over last month.
Yesterday, SA Roadlink management met Carlisle, Community MEC Dan Plato and Provincial Traffic Chief Kenny Africa to outline plans.
Last month the bus operator applied for an urgent court interdict to prevent provincial traffic authorities from continually pulling its buses off the road. The company accused the provincial Transport Department of singling it out from other companies, but Carlisle insisted they clamped down only on problematic long distance transport vehicles.
SA Roadlink has been involved in two serious accidents a year, on average. At least 64 passengers have died, with more than 300 injured.
In the most recent accident, an SA Roadlink bus overturned outside Bloemfontein, killing five people after the driver allegedly lost control of the wheel in May.
SA Roadlink chief operating officer Joe Mushwana said it was important to establish a relationship with the department to improve their compliance statistics.
“We will be incorporating a new fleet throughout the company, which forms part of a three-month replacement programme. We would like to work hand in hand with the government and not defend the challenges we had in the past, as this is a new chapter,” he said.
Mushwana said more inspectors will be positioned to monitor their drivers’ performance and bus maintenance.
In June Carlisle received a letter from SA Roadlink accusing the Department of “victimising” the company and demanding answers.
Mushwana apologised to Carlisle during the meeting yesterday as it “was not the manner he wanted their challenges to be resolved”.
Carlisle said he had yet to receive a written apology.
Mushwana invited Carlisle to visit one of their stations where buses are checked and prepared for long distance trips.
The company’s national sales manager, Nolin Padayachee, said a number of employees had been dismissed for their alleged involvement in deliberately sabotaging the company’s paperwork.
“We found that our permits and compliance certificates were being changed on purpose to get the company in trouble,” he said.
Carlisle said he would be satisfied once all SA Roadlink buses were as compliant as those of other big companies.
“We have requested that once one of their buses are stopped, a replacement bus should be sent out for the passengers because in most cases they are left with no facilities or in bad weather conditions. We have sent them a list of eight outstanding warrants of arrests and 10 fines.”