The sudden increase in public bus fares in Nelson Mandela Bay is a further burden on already cash-strapped consumers and will stretch household budgets to the limit. Unless proper consultation takes place with the angry public, the situation could turn ugly.

Last year the Algoa Bus Company transported 20, 160,190 million passengers.

What makes it worse, is that the Algoa Bus Company is subsidised by the Eastern Cape Government via a Conditional Grant with R126,5 million in the 2009/10 financial year to make transport more affordable. One would therefore expect some measure of thought before confronting the public with another unexpected price hike on essential services.

In the MEC’s policy speech she stated that one of the requirements of the conditional grant is that the department’s contract with Algoa Bay Bus Company must be converted from a ticket based- to a kilometre based subsidy. The question that needs to be asked, is this condition responsible for the current chaos.

One should bear in mind that many commuters and particularly scholars have no choice but to use the bus, as it is supposed to be an affordable means of transport. Those members of our society who can least afford it are once again most affected. Furthermore, many people in the suburbs do not have access to taxis.

The DA calls for urgent intervention by the Provincial Administration. The MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison has been requested to explain to the legislature why the Algoa Bus Company increased its charges. An example given to us is of a single trip for a scholar that increases from R2 to R6.15 from South End to 4th Avenue Walmer, which is a trip of just over a kilometer. We also want to know, why better advance warning given, whether the MEC is satisfied that the reasons is justified and if the MEC is aware that to buy a day pass you have to stipulate the day and time of your travel and if you don’t travel at that time you forfeit your ticket. (Please see question attached).

A comparison between the old- and new ticket prices shows alarming increases. According to information supplied by an angry commuter, a daily return ticket for her child increases from R3.80 to R12.30, a daily one-way ticket from R1.90 to R6.15, a weekly ticket from R19.00 (five days) to R56 (seven days).

If correct, the new tariffs represent an increase of over 300 per cent. Consumers are already dealing with a recession, how much more are they expected to take?

One can understand that increases are inevitable, but the MEC and Algoa Bus Company will have to explain why such drastic measures are necessary.

For further information, please contact Bobby Stevenson, MPL on 0827753444

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