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Durban - Furious commuters are ditching Durban’s unreliable bus service, which was disrupted again on Thursday by fuel supply issues.
There were also unconfirmed reports of a go-slow by drivers, apparently over salaries.
The latest upheaval is another blow to the beleaguered operator, Tansnat Durban Transport, which had to park off some of its fleet again this week because of a payment issue that cut its supply of diesel.
More than 50 uMlazi-bound commuters, who were left stranded at city ranks on Thursday night, marched to the company’s depot in Cross Street demanding a refund of the value of their Muvo cards so they could take minibus taxis home.
But the offices were closed and only security guards were on duty. The irate commuters called for the Muvo system to be scrapped.
They said they were better off using taxis even though they were more expensive.
The Muvo card system was launched in July 2012. It is a single smartcard that can be used on Durban Transport, Mynah and People Mover buses by loading cash electronically on to the card.
One commuter said he spent R136 a week topping up his Muvo card, but people were not getting the service they paid for. “Since this Muvo system was introduced the bus service has been in shambles. There are buses in the morning but none in the afternoon. Sometimes we don’t get a bus after (waiting) an hour,” said Enoch Hadebe from uMlazi. “How can you not buy diesel and pay staff when the people have already bought cards?” he said.
Last week, the spokesman for the eThekwini Municipality, Thabo Mofokeng, said Tansnat had told the city it was having problems on July 31. “Tansnat management (said) bus drivers have threatened not to honour the afternoon shift, which could result in the disruption of the service.”
A bus driver, who is not allowed to speak to the media, this morning insisted drivers were not on a go-slow and the problem was caused by the diesel shortages. He said drivers reported to work every day as required, but could do nothing if there was no fuel.
Mofokeng said the issue was resolved last Friday, but by on Thursday night commuters were stranded - because of both the go-slow and fuel shortage.
A commuter who asked for anonymity said it irked her to see a People Mover bus operating on Thursday night. “It is strange that the buses operating in the city centre have fuel and work all night but buses going to the township have stopped.”
School children were left stranded at bus stops on Thursday, with irate parents forced to make other arrangements or drop them off at school.
“The municipality squeezes every last ounce of blood from us. If we don’t pay for electricity, it gets cut off… but this is something we are paying for,” said one Glenwood parent.
His son attends George Campbell Technical High School. “I’ve been going into work late every day. Productivity is down and the worst part is that nobody can tell us when the services will be back.”
Tansnat’s general manager John Wilkinson said the company had not received its fuel delivery on Thursday so had to operate on a “skeleton service”.
“Diesel is still available but it is in short supply. We are expecting a delivery this afternoon (Thursday) and hope to resume full services (Friday).”
Wilkinson said the problem had to do with “a payment issue” and nothing to do with the shortages being experienced elsewhere in Durban. “We will get our deliveries and then things will normalise.”