City loses track of buses after firm fired

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Copy of ca p6 MyCiti 9630 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS The city relies on transponders fitted to MyCiTi buses, although they do not provide "real-time" information. Commuters have been asked to report any incidents to the control centre until a new system is up and running. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has admitted that once the MyCiTi buses leave the depot they are “driving blind” as there is no electronic way of monitoring the service.

This has been the case since March, when the city was forced to cancel its contract with Lumen Technologies for the control room’s hardware and software systems because of non-performance.

And a new contractor is unlikely to be appointed before the end of August.

Melissa Whitehead, commissioner of Transport for Cape Town, said on Wednesday that the city was having to do manual checks on the system, which was “not an ideal situation”.

Lumen’s contract covered the electronic scheduling and monitoring of the MyCiTi bus operations, including making sure that buses adhered to their scheduled times.

The total contract value was R234 million over a seven-year period and it was one of the reasons for Transport for Cape Town’s R182 600 000 underspend in the 2013/14 financial year.

Lumen initially threatened to sue the city for damages of R50m, but the company has subsequently been liquidated. The city is moving forward with its own claim for compensation.

Whitehead said the city had issued a request for quotations for the work, but the three companies that did submit quotes were deemed non-responsive. It had therefore been decided to call for tenders, and this request would go out on July 25, with a 30-day submission period.

Whitehead said the city would try to expedite the adjudication process so that a new contractor could be appointed and the “system can settle”.

Meanwhile, the city’s transport department relies on the transponders fitted to the MyCiTi buses to track the vehicles. However, this method did not provide “real time” information, meaning that if there was an accident or delay on a MyCiTi route, there was no way of informing the control room electronically, or alerting passengers of possible schedule changes.

Whitehead said the city could not introduce radio technology now, after spending money on the technology for a control room system, as this would be considered wasteful expenditure.

Meanwhile, the city was sitting with a “gap” in the management of the MyCiTi buses.

This, however, did not affect the running of the buses, she said. Frustrated commuters had taken to social media to complain about the bus delays and erratic driving of some of the MyCiTi drivers.

Yesterday, someone complained that a bus driver drove at 30km/h from Hout Bay to the Civic Centre Station, while another said he was almost knocked down by a speeding bus driver.

Another posted: “…We have all noticed but the management of MyCiTi are arrogant and incompetent enough to ignore its customer base and turn a blind eye when the MyCiTi bus drivers break the road safety laws of the country.”

The city has asked commuters to report any incidents to the control centre. Whitehead said bus drivers, many of whom were former taxi drivers, would get ongoing training. There were also plans to introduce an incentive scheme to reward drivers’ good performance and to form a dedicated public transport law enforcement unit to ensure compliance with the rules of the road.

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Cape Argus

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