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Launch of the first active electric buses gets mixed reaction

Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchells and Golden Arrow Bus Services chief executive Francios Meyer on Monday launched the first ever active electric bus in SA. Picture: Supplied Western Cape Government

Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchells and Golden Arrow Bus Services chief executive Francios Meyer on Monday launched the first ever active electric bus in SA. Picture: Supplied Western Cape Government

Published Jul 6, 2021

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Cape Town - Golden Arrow Bus Services’ first-of-its-kind electric buses received a lukewarm reception from some, despite the fanfare with which they were introduced.

The launch at the Gabs depot in Montana, next to Cape Town International Airport, was after testing of two electric buses in Cape Town, and these would now be incorporated into Golden Arrow’s day-to-day operations, carrying passengers between Retreat and Cape Town, starting this month.

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Gabs engineer Gideon Neethling said the testing phase of the electric bus has been rigorous.

Neethling said, for the first few months, they tested the buses in a range of circumstances without passengers, with the aim to get to know exactly how those vehicles performed, before incorporating them into their operations.

He said that there was much to be learned about the new bus, including electricity usage under different conditions, charge times between trips, possible scheduling challenges as a result of charge times, maintenance needs, battery degradation, and other general operational challenges, compared to the currently used internal combustion engine.

Gabs spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said Golden Arrow’s remarkable renewable energy journey started in 2017, with the pilot installation of two solar plants of 25kWh each.

Dyke-Beyer said the results were encouraging and ultimately led to two of its facilities being declared carbon neutral in 2020.

“Given the success of projects to date, Golden Arrow decided to take on its next project –testing an electric bus. The company has partnered with BYD (bus manufacturer) and uYilo (co-funder) to test two 100% electric buses, for a 12-month period,” she said.

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ANC provincial transport spokesperson Lulama Mvimbi said the initiative was welcomed, however, they would have loved it to be extended to the majority of the public transport operators, including minibuses.

Mvimbi said they hoped that the electric buses would be much safer.

"As Gabs buses have recently been the target for crime, especially in the townships," said Mvimbi.

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Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) provincial secretary Malvern de Bruyn questioned why the bus company was launching the electric buses, while people were being mugged on buses almost every day.

"Instead, they should have used that money to beef up security in buses and on bus routes," said De Bruyn.

Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell said the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works and Gabs are working together on various technology solutions, to improve public transport in the province.

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"My department endorses innovative programmes such as this one, given the challenges experienced by our commuters in the absence of the passenger rail system,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell said the narrative around safety on Golden Arrow buses was very different. He said, after taking a ride in the bus, he was confident that passengers would feel safe during their journey.

Mayor Dan Plato said although the City does not provide nor manage passenger rail, Gabs, or the minibus taxi services, they wanted to ensure that the public transport interchanges, where those services operated from, were safe, clean, and well-managed.

This, after the City of Cape Town revealed yesterday that it has appointed a company to manage all of its public transport facilities, as of last Friday.

According to the City, some of the services to be provided would include a 24-hour security, including surveillance of CCTV camera footage, 24-hour cleaning of facilities, which involves daily cleaning, hygiene services, and waste management.

“Thousands of Capetonians use public transport to get to work and other destinations every day. Some use the MyCiTi bus service, others board minibus taxis, Gabs buses, or Metrorail trains.

“These public transport interchanges, minibus-taxi facilities, and MyCiTi stations are beehives of activity, and keeping these spaces clean, safe, and well-maintained, is extremely important,” said Plato.

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Cape Argus

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