File Image: IOL
Cape Town - As thousands of people flock daily to the Joe Gqabi bus terminus in Philippi in hope of getting to the Eastern Cape early, it is all hands on deck for traffic officers as they will ensure they travel in roadworthy vehicles.

On Thursday morning mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith and MEC for Public Works and Transport Donald Grant visited the public transport interchange as the annual roadworthy check campaign Operation Exodus started.

“Any vehicle that is found not to be roadworthy will be suspended and prohibited from travelling further. Officers will also screen vehicle loads to guard against overloading and ensure that all driver and vehicle documentation is in order prior to departure.

"Operation Exodus isn’t popular in some circles, but it could mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of innocent people making their way to holiday destinations around the country,” Smith said.

Smith advised long distance drivers to be responsible and not drink and drive as “more taxi drivers were being arrested for drinking and driving lately". Checking of locations will include Joe Gqabi, Bellville and Cape Town station.

Grant said: "Our collective focus on public transport is key to all of our efforts to make our roads safer over the festive season. Free vehicle inspections, which are part of our Public Transport Sticker Project, have become a common feature during both the Easter and festive season exodus periods when many holiday-makers are making use of long-distance public transport to get to their various destinations.”

Disgruntled taxi bosses and drivers claimed they were never informed about the visit and were not invited to the meeting.

"These are our ranks and our vehicles they are violating. They are supposed to work with us. The meeting is about us and our vehicles. We feel disrespected and undermined. We have been complaining about this for years now. They are violating us and every time they cause delays,” said chairman of the Western Cape Long Distance Bus Association, Ndodile Yekile.

During the previous festive season, 1034 public transport vehicles were checked before departure in the run-up to Christmas Eve. Of these, 24% of vehicles failed the roadworthy test. Midibuses accounted for a 36% failure rate and minibuses 30%. The failure rate for buses was 8%.

Smith said random checks were good as drivers were not prepared.

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Cape Argus