Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi expressed concern regarding the future of the A Re Yeng buses during his opening speech.
Maswanganyi called on at least 600 delegates to explore solutions to the problems related to the business viability of BRT systems in cities. Deviating from his prepared speech, Maswanganyi said he had seen almost empty A Re Yeng buses constantly travelling on city roads.
He suggested BRT buses were running at a loss by not attracting more commuters to use them.
“I have seen the BRT buses from Hatfield and Sunnyside with two people on board. I don’t know whether I should continue to subsidise such a bus.”
Maswanganyi threatened to withdraw the government’s financial support for the buses and divert it to taxis if the situation didn’’t improve. “How do you continue to subsidise a bus travelling with only a driver? Who am I subsidising? The bus driver or the bus?”
He challenged the delegates of scientists and academics to come up with solutions to the problem.
“If it is not working tell us and next year we will stop it. Say ‘minister this thing is not working because of one, two, three’. Maybe we didn’t do thorough feasibility studies when we conceptualised the BRT system. It is a matter that all of us here have to look at,” he said.
Transport analyst Paul Browning said there was generally a great concern about the amount of money spent on the BRT system.
He said the matter had been raised by the National Treasury and would receive attention at the conference.
MEC for Roads and Transport Dr Ismail Vadi said: “Current BRT usage is not that great. We have already invested around R15billion in the system in the three metros, but Gauteng usage is not more than 75000 people per day.”
Vadi said the BRT roll-out was happening in the cities. “When fully in place, the BRT will comprise 700km of dedicated bus lanes.”
He said it was important to ask some serious questions about the system. “Should we have gone for something more affordable and more viable? Do we need such fancy stations?” he asked. Vadi said the government was spending around R50million to R70m on each BRT platform. “We must learn from this; we need to increase usage and reduce costs,” he said.
According to Vadi roughly 63000 passenger trips were being undertaken daily, with over 80million passenger trips having taken place since Gautrain’s inception in 2010.
At least 140km of new tracks will be laid in the province in the next 25 years, while 19 new Gautrain stations are being planned.
Six of these will be located in the capital, three in Ekurhuleni and 10 in Joburg.
Tshwane transport MMC Sheila Senkubuge didn’t reply to queries regarding the business viability of the A Re Yeng buses.
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