Mayors, unions call for subsidies to public transport networks
THE CITY of Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo, City of Tshwane mayor Randall Williams and eThekwini municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, along with transport unions, have called on the government to provide reliable operational subsidies to public transport networks.
This forms part of a campaign called The Future is Public Transport, which aims to highlight the importance of public transport to Covid-19 recovery within cities.
“The national government must provide a subsidy to make our public transport system integrated, safe, sustainable and resilient to future crises.
“Essential workers are not just doctors and nurses. Public transport workers deserve secure formal jobs with decent terms and conditions,” South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) national spokesperson Solomon Mahlangu said yesterday.
The mayors and Satawu said in a joint statement that while subsidies to the South African bus and train network existed, recent reports suggested that these modes of transport only accounted for 23.6% and 9.9% of commuted transport respectively.
In the meantime, the minibus taxi industry, which is responsible for 66.6% of commuter travel, did not receive an operational subsidy.
According to them, the introduction of a reliable and consistent operational subsidy would lay the groundwork for safer Covid19 measures to protect operators and commuters; a more affordable transport system through centralised fare collections integrating costs across multiple trips; as well as generating decent jobs for informal and formal workers.
“As the government, we are committed to partnering with all stakeholders to ensure investments in the transport sector positions of Johannesburg as the hub of a social and economic recovery that leaves none of our residents behind.
“Access to safe and affordable public transport must be leveraged to drive investment in a sustainable future for all,” Makhubo said.
The mayors and union added that the subsidy would also provide a “meaningful buffer against future industry shocks” arising from the decrease in commuters due to Covid19 restrictions.
“Our vision for Tshwane is that of a city generating jobs for all, where people live in healthy, resilient and equitable communities supported by a sustainable environment.
“This can only be achieved through an affordable, sustainable, efficient and safe mass transit system,” said Williams.
The mayors added that inaction posed risks to the livelihoods of
about 650 000 drivers, marshals and informal traders who face unemployment from the impact of Covid-19 on public transport systems.
“Building resilient cities which support the health, social and economic needs of our residents is front and centre of our work as a city.
“To protect all people, we cannot allow a return to ‘business as usual’,” Kaunda said.
“Through a reliable operational subsidy, our public transport system can be a catalyst for building said resilience,” he said.