A Golden Arrow bus at the bus station in Cape Town. DAVID RITCHIE African News Agency (ANA)
A Golden Arrow bus at the bus station in Cape Town. DAVID RITCHIE African News Agency (ANA)

LOOK: Golden Arrow bus service celebrates 160th anniversary

By Time of article published Apr 3, 2021

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Cape Town - From horse-drawn trams to modernised electrical buses, the Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) has been “the bus for us” for well over a century.

The iconic bus service celebrated its 160th anniversary this week and present and past employees shared some of their most memorable moments, and current chief executive Francois Meyer said it had always been about the people.

“As we celebrate this remarkable milestone, we would like to thank everyone who has been a part of our incredible journey. Golden Arrow has never been a ‘bus business’ – it has always been a ‘people business’. We move people, we employ people, and we uplift people. This is our true legacy.”

Buses parked illegally, blocking Sir Lowry Road outside the Golden Arrow bus depot in Woodstock. LEON MULLER

GABS operates just over 1 000 buses during peak hours, serving more than 3 100 routes in the metro. Golden Arrow conveys approximately 250 000 passengers per weekday, with an annual rate of 60 million passengers.

Jamiel Adams, who resigned in February, celebrated 47 years of working for GABS, starting as a body builder apprentice for City Tramways in 1974.

With increasing automation taking place globally it was time to give the horses their much-deserved rest and move on to trams. They were designed to operate shorter journeys on roads alongside other forms of traffic. SUPPLIED

“The company had the Leyland single decker and double-decker at the time. The double-deckers had no passenger doors, you had to board the bus at its back as each bus had a driver and a conductor.”

Looking back at the golden moments at the company, he highlighted one of his most treasured memories.

“One of my bigger achievements was when we trained three women to become spray painters. Today the three women are qualified spray painters, and they are working permanently at GABS. They are the first and only women qualified spray painters in the Western Cape. We are busy training more learners and apprentices for the future of Golden Arrow.

Golden Arrow buses parked in District 6. ARMAND HOUGH African News Agency (ANA)

“I love what I was doing, and Golden Arrow became my destiny. Thank you to Golden Arrow for allowing me to work with you. God bless and all the best for the company.”

GABS operation manager Mario Gaffley, who has been working for GABS for 24 years, said working at the company was a dream come true. The company not only cared for their passengers but also for their employees.

Gaffley joined GABS in 1996. He wanted to be a boilermaker but his mother only managed to get him a Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) bursary to cover some of the fees to go to Athlone Technical College. Following the depletion of his funds, he applied at a Golden Arrow recruitment centre where he got a job as an apprentice vehicle body builder.

“The company would send me to school, every year and pay my tuition fees while still paying me a weekly salary. Then in my third year, my foreman asked if I wanted to go do my trade test. I did and I passed it.”

Spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, said that their employee statistics were interesting.

“Out of 2 527 staff members, 629 have been working at our company for between 10 and 20 years and 241 of our employees have been with us for more than 20 years.”

GABS has also been a part of various charitable foundations and causes through the Community Transport Support programme, which is an extension of the Golden Arrow Foundation Grassroots Programme. It boasts programmes like the Grassroots Adventure Bus Programme which has been serving communities from as early as 1974.

Through the HCI foundation, GABS has contributed towards transport costs of more than 385 educational outings for disadvantaged pre-schools. Beneficiaries of the Community Transport Support Programme include the Artscape Theatre Centre, the Amy Foundation SA, the College of Magic, iThemba Labantu Lutheran Community Centre, the Iziko South African Museums and Jazzart.

Weekend Argus

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