The recent accident near De Doorns in May, when 28 people died and several passengers were injured, was tragic. This accident should never have happened.
How often has public outrage been expressed at these previous bus tragedies on our roads – yet little is done to improve bus safety for the public.
This province urgently needs an efficient, integrated transport system.
Speaker if we are serious about choice, integrated transport in this province and safety for commuters we have to “walk the talk”.
I refer the house to the Budget Vote Report of the Committee under programme 2 Finding e) and quote:
“There are no provisions made for Integrated Transport Plan activities due to funds being committed to paying contractual obligation to AB 350.” Speaker, AB 350 is a bus company in the province subsidised by government.
Furthermore Speaker, if we look at the budget allocation this House will note that the budget for public transport has decreased from R415,157 in 2009/10 financial year to R394,198 million this financial year – a drop of 5%.
The Democratic Alliance, at committee, will be requesting additional funding for improved public transport.
This province needs a sustained Integrated Transport System as a matter of urgency to reduce accident carnage on our roads and to give transport modal choice to our communities.
Speaker, in the policy speech of the MEC of 25 March 2010 the MEC alludes to and I quote “Quality transport system for a better life for all”.
The Democratic Alliance agrees with this concept.
However, despite previous references by the MEC and the department to the development of an Integrated Transport System little is happening in this regard.
The Chairperson of the committee has expressed his concerns at meetings of the committee this year, about the lack of progress in implementing an Integrated Transport System.
Speaker, reliable and safe transport is the cornerstone to sustained economic prosperity and growth in any society.
I would like to illustrate to the House an example of how an Integrated Public Transport system can work effectively.
I shall, Honourable Speaker, take the example from the City of Cape Town.
In this example Honourable Speaker I quote from an article in Business Day newspaper of 28 May 2010 titled “Cape Town opens Traffic Centre”:
“Cape Town mayor Dan Plato yesterday officially opened the city’s R160m state-of-the-art transport management centre, billed as the first integrated public transport, traffic and safety and security management centre in South Africa and one of the first in the world. The City said the centre, in Goodwood, would improve management of traffic incidents and emergencies.”
Speaker in essence what this Transport Management Centre (TMC will achieve) is to integrate Freeway Management ,Urban Traffic Control, Public Transport Information, Integrated Rapid Transport traffic and Metro police all under one roof.
Furthermore Speaker, the centre will be able to communicate information to motorists through variable message signs (some using variable energy) – and information will only be given to motorists when it is necessary and not on a continuous basis.
In addition Speaker, Transport Information will communicate real time information for train and bus services, arrival times, ticket costs, delays – and for 2010 – will communicate this information in nine languages.
Honourable Speaker, what has been described here is the ideal appropriate for a Metro City situation.
Speaker we need a similar Integrated Transport Management system in this province.
Our transport system is, on account of the rural nature of our province, very fragmented. We need to do a study to ascertain all our transport modes, their reliability, functionality and capacity.
From this study Speaker we can then see how we can integrate and fund these various modals unique to our province.
Speaker, I am pleased to announce that during a recent portfolio meeting of the Transport Committee I suggested that this investigation into integrated transport be done, and my suggestion was accepted by the committee.
An example of such co operation can be found in the Nelson Mandela Metro.
In this example, the BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) and the Taxi operators have come together and formed a co-operative transport agreement.
However, Speaker as the Eastern Cape is a rural province any integrated system would have to be adapted to a rural and metro system.
Speaker, despite the rural nature of our province, we need to as part of our integrated transport plan) to aggressively market freight and passenger movement away from road transport towards rail transport.
Speaker, by so doing safer rail travel may force errant bus operators to jerk up their safety as they lose passengers to rail travel.
As a start we need to start integrating our Provincial bus services into an integrated transport system.
The way these services are currently funded has a direct result on the type and efficiency of service they give to people.
With references to the Findings Programme 2 A) B) & C) the House will notice the funding anomaly to our three main bus companies in the Province.
The Department has a contract with Africas Best 350 (PTY) LTD which is proving an expensive liability to the department.
Further to this, the department support to AB 350 busses is unintentionally taking out of business small operators as they cannot compete with AB 350 or get issued permits by the department.
By doing this Speaker, the department is taking opportunity away from people – they could be empowering themselves to earn a decent living.
The department must revise this funding agreement with AB 350 to bring more economic opportunity by allowing citizens to start small bus transport co operatives or companies.
There is no strategic role in the operations of Algoa Bus Company based in the Metro. The department acts as a conduit for Algoa Bus money, that is transferred to them by the National Department of Transport.
Mayibuye Transport Company is still grossly underfunded. This company received a grant-in-aid of R43million and a further R8,5million for bus refurbishment.
Speaker, entering into new funding arrangements for these companies would be a start in enhancing integration of our rural bus transport in the province.
The Democratic Alliance would fund this alternative with a state subsidy to passengers rather than a subsidy to the bus corporations.
Furthermore the Democratic Alliance would introduce a single multi-modal ticket for easy access to a citizen’s transport choice.
The Democratic Alliance believes that much of our public transport needs should be in the hands of the private sector to ensure better safety, affordability and choice for the people.
However, public private partnerships should also be investigated and any combination of the above be sought to maximise transport excellence.
I would therefore, Honourable Speaker, propose that for the rest of this financial year, the committee look at plans to integrate our bus services in the province.
If we, as a committee, can report back on progress in this regard when we present at next year’s budget speech, then this will be significant progress forward – and a start to the Integration of our Transport system – especially at rural level.
The DA supports the budget.