Durban - Durban’s municipal buses are running on empty, with fuelling hiccups leaving irate passengers sometimes waiting for hours.
The deputy head of the eThekwini Transport Authority, Erik Moller, confirmed on Tuesday that there were issues around the availability of fuel for the bus fleet.
“We have been experiencing some difficulties (with) the shortage of fuel,” he said, adding that the fleet manager, Tansnat, which was “responsible for the fuel”, had indicated that it would be delivered on Tuesday.
Tansnat general manager, John Wilkinson, acknowledged the company was receiving service complaints every day, but said they were being dealt with.
“With an operation of this size there are always difficulties, but there’s no specific one,” he said. “We are currently not having a disrupted service as a result of fuel.
“We have a contract which is performance-based and moderated externally, and we don’t want to be penalised. We do our best to avoid these operational issues,” Wilkinson said.
Angry commuters disagree that the service is not being disrupted.
In a snap survey conducted by the Daily News at bus terminals in the Durban CBD, waiting commuters said buses were often late all across Durban. Most had resigned themselves to having to sit and wait for up to two hours to be picked up.
They said they were being reprimanded at work for arriving late.
Jenny Fredericks, who commutes from Newlands East to uMhlanga by bus, said her employer had scolded her for being late on several occasions over the past few weeks.
She had lodged numerous complaints with the bus company and was promised they would be investigated.
“When I phone the depot we are told there’s no diesel…” she said.
“They tell us to use alternative transport when we complain, but people have already loaded money into the Muvo (travel) cards and don’t have any more cash to take taxis,” she said.
A 67-year-old uMlazi man, who did not want to be named, said his No 7 route bus was the “worst” as he had been waiting for almost two-and-a-half hours for it to arrive on Tuesday.
Another commuter at the stop said drivers were not following the bus timetables, so they were useless.
“There are timetables but they (buses) are not operating according to it. You would arrive at 8am at the bus stop and the bus would only arrive at 10am,” she said.
Ntuzuma pensioner, Esther Mkhwanazi, 78, said she was forced to take taxis sometimes because of bus delays.
“The bus stop is right opposite my house and I always see people going to work waiting for too long for the bus. When we ask the driver why the delay, he will say they do not have enough diesel at their bus depot for more buses to operate,” said Mkhwanazi. At the Monty Naicker (Pine) Street terminal in the Durban CBD, commuters waiting for the Newtown A bus cut lonely figures as they waited hours for the bus to arrive.
Yasmin Malinga, 20, a student teacher, said she had a long wait in the afternoons.
“I leave work at midday and come here for the 1.30pm bus - sometimes it will be late and sometimes it will not come at all, then we have to use the 3pm bus,” she said.
Tansnat said operational issues were inevitable in such a huge operation, but that its fleet was operating at between 90 and 97 percent capacity currently. Asked about the constant delays, which could potentially cost people their jobs, Wilkinson dismissed them as external issues, blaming roadworks, defective traffic lights and traffic and saying these were matters beyond the company’s control.