File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Durban - Residents wanting to travel home for the festive season, have expressed concerns about using long distance buses after a robbery aboard an Intercape bus at the weekend. 

A former Durbanite, now living in Gauteng, said she was planning to travel home via bus for the Christmas holidays but was considering other options in light of the attack. 

"I was going to book a bus because it's cheaper and more convenient to get to the bus station than the airport but after reading this, there is no way I am taking a bus. But this means I have to find more money somewhere to book the flight which costs three times more than the bus and take an e-hailing taxi to the airport costs just about as much as the bus to Durban,” she said.

Another resident said she hoped that security would be beefed up in time for her trip to visit family for Christmas.

In the attack, it is alleged that a group of men boarded the bus which was travelling from Johannesburg to Harare.In total, 8 armed men made off with cellphones and passengers' valuables. 

According to Intercape, senior management immediately attended to the situation and would be working hand in hand with the SAPS to investigate the matter.

"After the police took statements from passengers, the coach travelled further and reached its destination safely,” said the company.

Intercape said they regretted the “completely random uncontrollable act” by criminals who masqueraded as passengers.

“We would like to confirm that as an organisation we strive to keep our passengers safe at all times. Intercape would like to apologise to our most valued passengers for any inconvenience,” Intercape said. 

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union spokesperson Zanele Sabela said most bus companies have onboard cameras and these should be used to identify perpetrators.  

"For those companies that do not have cameras, they should consider installing them,” said Sabela.

Sabela added that in the union’s experience bus companies have been taking appropriate measures to combat crime for their particular circumstances.

In the last four months at least three Autopax bus drivers were shot while transporting passengers. Translux and City to City buses are owned by holding company Autopax, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa)

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport said they hoped that such incidents do not occur again.

“Companies must also utilize technology to assist their driver to report if there is something wrong going on. They should also monitor their fleet and check up on them on a regular basis,” said Department spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane.

In addition, Ncalane said MEC Bheki Ntuli has met with the management of Autopax and the police to discuss the security of commuters.

“The meeting resolved to beef up securing, including the provision of private security by the company but in addition, the police will monitor the routes in which the buses are travelling,” he said.

Ncalane said as part of the Provincial Integrated Festive Season Plan, the Department was focusing mainly on public transport to ensure stability and safety of commuters.

“We cannot accept a situation where commuters lives are placed at risk because of a conflict they are not part of,” said Ncalane.

The Mercury