The Star editor, Japhet Ncube.
The Star editor, Japhet Ncube.

#Editor'sNote: Bus operators need to start respecting their customers

By Japhet Ncube Time of article published Dec 18, 2018

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SOMEBODY once said Park Station in central Joburg is a country on its own.

Here, buses and trains to and from all over the country and the SADC region pass through on a daily basis. Thousands of passengers gather here as they find transport to faraway places.

If you want to witness bad customer relations, this is the place to be. Bus operators don’t seem to care for their passengers, especially those travelling to neighbouring countries.

I witnessed this on Sunday evening. A bus that was scheduled to leave at 7.30pm for Harare left after 9pm.

I went to investigate why and found out that part of the problem was that it was overbooked, so they had to wait for another bus to come all the way from their depot in Pretoria.

The other problem was that the bus trailer was too small to accommodate all the luggage of the passengers. This particular bus’s luggage compartment had already been filled with luggage. Apparently, it loads in Pretoria first, then comes to Park Station to pick up more passengers before it makes its way north.

So the restless passengers had to wait for a bigger trailer to come from the depot before the luggage could be loaded.

On further investigation, I found out that two more buses had been made available to deal with the overbooking, but this meant none of them would leave on time.

All three were overbooked, resulting in passengers who were travelling together having to sit separately because when they got onto the bus, their seats had been taken. This is despite people having purchased their tickets weeks in advance.

No apologies or explanation from the bus company concerned was forthcoming at the time that I left Park Station.

But while I was there I spoke to several passengers, who told sad tales of how they are treated by bus operators, especially at this time of the year, when they leave the city to spend the festive season holidays with their loved ones.

One passenger wondered why a bus company would bring a smaller trailer for a fully booked coach headed for Zimbabwe, knowing very well that people are going home for Christmas and would have a lot to carry home for their families.

I asked a driver why this is so, and he shrugged his shoulders and told me that the owners only agreed to bring bigger trailers when they came to the station to handle the overbooking.

“When we tell them, they don’t believe us,” said the driver. “Now they are here and they can see for themselves how dire the situation is.”

He told me he had been driving cross-border buses for many years and that there are three weighbridges on the N1 to Beitbridge.

If he loaded all the luggage on the bus itself, it would be overloaded and he would be delayed for hours at the weighbridges.

So it's always safe to use a trailer.

Then there is also the chaos on both sides of the border to deal with. This particular bus arrived at the South African side of the border at around 7am yesterday. By 1pm it was still on the Zimbabwean side, which meant that it wouldn’t make it to Harare on time.

The saddest part is that as I write this, more passengers at Park Station are going through similar experiences. And it will get worse this weekend when more people close at work and depart for various destinations over Christmas.

Bus operators need to start respecting their customers.

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