LOOK: Durban's new multi-million rand bus fleet sits idle as city seeks operator
The buses cost between R2 million and R3m each, and several more are still to be delivered.
Private company Tansnat is in charge of running the city’s bus service, and the two parties are engaged in a protracted court battle over who owes who money.
City manager Sipho Nzuza said the fleet was due for replacement because some buses were about 16 years old.
“We’ve ordered about 100 for the financial year, but so far I know of about 42 buses that were delivered. Tansnat is still the legal operator, so the new buses will be under their control because of the existing arrangement between the two parties,” he said.
Nzuza said the city was in the process of establishing an entity that would oversee the city’s entire transport service once the GO!Durban project was completed. He said a tender was out for a new operator.
“A tender for this will be reviewed and Tansnat will not be prohibited from bidding for the job. There’s an ongoing arbitration between the city and the operator. That, however, doesn’t mean that they can’t bid once the review is done on the tender. It must be noted that the entity to be established is meant to control the city’s entire transport unit, so it should not be confused with the purchasing of these new buses,” Nzuza said.
There was no indication of when the tender process would be concluded by, but the GO!Durban project was expected to be complete in 2023.
A source at the depot said staff were busy installing ticketing machines on the vehicles.
The city currently owns the buses in the fleet, but its operations are outsourced to Tansnat.
In December, sister newspaper The Mercury reported that the municipality was set to spend R765m over the next three years to buy 300 buses as part of its plan to renew its fleet.
A report before the executive committee states the city would spend R255m on buses each year.
Chief financial officer Krish Kumar estimated each bus would cost between R2m and R3m, and with the budgeted amount they could replace 60-70 buses each financial year.
DA chief whip Thabani Mthethwa said the head of supply chain management told him the city had put out a tender for 150 buses which the manufacturer would deliver in phases.
Mthethwa said the municipality should not be spending money on more buses while there was a financial dispute between Tansnat and the city.
“We do not believe we would be doing the right thing if we took people’s money and bought buses that will be run by a private company that will benefit while the municipality does not benefit,” Mthethwa said.
IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said the current buses were old and in bad condition, and broke down often.
“When the city tabled a report that new buses needed to be purchased because of these reasons, we all agreed, but we asked who would be running the buses and the answer was that the city would now go for an entity. However, Tansnat would not be ruled out; they would be one of the stakeholders,” Nkosi said.
He said both the city and Tansnat were “playing hide-and-seek”, each saying the other owed it millions of rand.
“I can call it wasteful expenditure because if you buy something with municipal money and it is not used, it is wasteful expenditure, and someone must account for that,” said Nkosi.
Tony Clothier, chairperson of the Outer West Ratepayers’ Association, said the city should find capable individuals to run the new buses.
“Will they be operated by Tansnat? I think they should put out a new tender and get a company that will be able to pay drivers’ salaries, pay for maintenance and look after the buses. Until they bring in someone who is capable, they might as well leave the new buses parked,” he said.
Clothier said if the buses were used under Tansnat’s management, they would resemble the ageing bus fleet in six months’ time.
Tansnat had not commented by the time of publication.