Durban - Police had to rush to the aid of SA Roadlink employees on Sunday when stranded passengers’ tempers reached boiling point as they stormed the company’s Durban kiosk threatening violence.
A Daily News team arrived amid scenes of chaos at Durban Station’s bus terminal where more than 50 passengers, due to travel to Johannesburg, threatened to riot because they had been left stranded for more than five hours after one allegedly unroadworthy bus - and its replacement - were taken off the road by police.
Midrand resident Chandra Naidoo, 52, described how her planned trip home turned into a “nightmare journey from hell” after she and other passengers boarded an SA Roadlink bus, which was pulled over by police and then escorted back to the terminal for allegedly being unroadworthy.
“We made our booking on Saturday via the internet for the 11am bus. When we arrived, all the passengers boarded the bus and everything was fine,” Naidoo said.
“The driver left the terminal and drove to the CBD to get on to the freeway. As we approached David Webster (Leopold) Street we were pulled over by the metro police.
“The policeman inspected the bus and ordered the driver to go back to the terminal because his tyres were in an extremely poor condition making the bus unroadworthy.”
Naidoo said the driver, who promised the policeman that he would change the tyres, continued to drive, making his way on to the freeway. She said the passengers became concerned and demanded he go back to the terminal, which he eventually agreed to do.
“We got back to the terminal and the driver stopped for a minute and then proceeded to the repair yard in uMngeni Road with all the passengers on board,” she said.
“After another 45-minute delay there, we were taken to Sydney Road where we were told that a replacement bus would be on standby.
“A replacement bus arrived, which was in far worse condition. People refused to travel on either of the buses, so I decided to call the police to complain.”
Her husband, Maniseelan “Jay” Naidoo, said that the police arrived and escorted both buses back to the station. There, passengers were left stranded and the company duty manager could provide no solution to the problem, he said.
“More than three hours had elapsed and the next load of passengers scheduled to leave at 2pm arrived at the station, causing further chaos.” .
People were banging the kiosk glass and counter and swearing. Others were jumping on the luggage scale. All were demanding refunds.
The police were on hand to protect SA Roadlink staff and tried to calm the angry crowd.
The duty manageress had to be escorted from the kiosk to a residence in Phoenix to get the keys to the safe so passengers could be refunded.
A policeman, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media, told how he and his colleagues did their best to defuse the situation.
“We arrived around 2pm and our priority was to ensure the angry crowd did not take the law into their own hands,” said the officer.
Staff members did not want to comment and refused to explain why no one could get through to the customer service department.
According to the passengers, their tickets cost from R200 to R250 a person.
SA Roadlink’s chief operating officer, Joe Mushwana, today acknowledged there was a problem with the tyres on both buses.
“But the buses did have the necessary permits and licences to be on the road,” he said.
He added that the delay was caused by the replacement bus being in Villiers.