SA public transport situation needs support, broader participation of all


SA public transport situation needs support, broader participation of all

Pretoria, 21 June 2024 – Just over 30 years into the democratic era, South Africa’s dreams of efficient, affordable and integrated public transportation systems remain deferred.

The need for mass overhaul and reform in the public transportation sector of South Africa will be crucial for the country’s future growth and continued development, according to outgoing Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga.

Meanwhile, with public transit in South Africa predominantly made up of three major modes of transportation – buses, trains and minibus taxis – forming an integral part of the country’s social framework, the Department of Transport has the daunting task of finding an affordable and efficient means of public transport that serves its people and increases opportunities to better their lives.

Chikunga briefed the media on the state of public transport in South Africa at SANRAL’s Central Operations Centre in Centurion on Tuesday, a day before President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration which signalled the end of term for ministers until Ramaphosa appoints his new Cabinet.

“These improvements can only be achieved through collaboration with the private sector – which brings resources, expertise and efficiencies – along with civil society providing checks and balances and, most importantly, with the users and/or commuters for whom public transport is a vital link to opportunity,” Chikunga said.

She said although the country had made progress in improving the public transport system, it was still impacted by apartheid’s spatial segregation.

“Truth is, the historic denial of an efficient and integrated public transport system which characterised the apartheid regime still has a ripple effect, even after 30 years of democracy, as historic challenges of spatial segregation characterised by historical neglect and under-investment still undermine the efforts and level of investments committed over the 30 years,” she added.

Chikunga said it was important to note that government had continued to provide new or improved existing public transport infrastructure within
integrated public transport networks. In the process, she added, the sixth administration created approximately 20 000 jobs.

She lambasted the apartheid policies that moved the poor away from job opportunities and amenities, imposing enormous burdens on working people and other passengers, such as learners, who had to travel long distances at great cost. South Africans were denied a say in transport and were exposed to insecure modes of travel.

“The historical legacy and urban sprawl encouraged exclusionary transport modes, inefficient settlement patterns and the growth of informal settlements on the outskirts of metropolitan areas where land is cheaper,” she said.

“Since the emergence of our democracy, it has thus been critical to enhance accessibility to all fundamental rights and services, including public transport. Enhanced access to public transport and mobility is considered a fundamental human right. Improved equality requires everyone to gain access to cost affordable, easily accessible, secure, and safe public transport services,” the transport minister told the media.

Chikunga said a public transport network needed to be planned, designed and managed as an integrated system, even with different operators, rather than as isolated modes of transport or segregated operators.

“An integrated network makes it easier to align subsidies (where appropriate) to the network’s objectives and to better serve the citizens of South Africa,” she said.
Government had introduced a number of policy and legislative reforms too.

Chikunga explained, “In 1996, the national government published the White Paper on National Transport Policy, revised in 2021. The White Paper articulated a mission that promoted the use of public transport over private transport through a strongly customer-based, affordable, integrated, safe and effective system in both urban and rural areas. This system would be designed in such a way as to improve levels of accessibility for all.”

The 2007 Public Transport Strategy and Action Plan proposed the move from basic supply-oriented commuter operations towards demand-based services with the introduction of new services, modal upgrades and transformative vehicle revitalisation for the development of Integrated Public Transport Networks (IPTNs).

The 2009 National Land Transport Act (NLTA) introduced a shift to the development of Integrated Public Transport Networks to support the Public Transport Strategy. It established municipalities as transport planning and contracting authorities.

The second major introduction of the NLTA were the new institutional arrangements in the form of the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR), Provincial Regulatory Entities (PREs), Municipal Regulatory Entities (MREs), Planning Authorities and Intermodal Planning Committees.

“The recently assented National Land Transport Amendment Act 23 of 2023 which was passed last week (11 June 2024) into law by His Excellency the President, have additionally introduced the regulation of e-hailing services, which will move away from the interim usage of charter permits to operating licences, like any other public transport operator,” Chikunga said.

The draft regulations provided details on contracting for public transport services, provision of e-hailing services regulation, conversion of permits and indefinite-period operating licences to operating licences required by the act, and moratorium on operating licences for minibus taxi-type services.

The department was also developing a National Public Transport Subsidy Policy to address the funding requirements for subsidising public transport, including equitable allocation. The policy would do away with dispensing a public transport subsidy on a historical level and enable the government to fund public transport at the right level.

Chikunga said in line with the revised White Paper on National Transport Policy of 2021 – which recommended that “a public transport subsidy guideline should be developed which establishes the objectives of such a policy, appropriate models of its implementation and a costing methodology,” – the Department tabled the Draft National Public Transport Subsidy Policy at Cabinet in October 2023.

Its basic principles are that it is user-targeted, equitable and sustainable in the medium- to long-term.

“We have, irrespective of our challenges and constraints, managed to realise major milestones in the area of public transport almost as much as we have progressed with improvements in the implementation of other mandates and these have positively affected the lives of ordinary South Africans,” Chikunga said.

She added that their aims involve continued support for tourism that includes, among others, the efficient processing of operating licences, on which a large part of this industry depends for operational growth.

“We have established the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) and continuously institutionalise the NPTR Committee. We must also mention that eight provinces have established Provincial Regulatory Entities (PREs), except for the Free State province, which will soon finalise its processes,” she said.

“PREs provide proper regulation and issuance and management of the operating licence regime for road-based public transport while the NPTR monitors and oversees public transport in the country in general and processes the issuance of operating licences for tour operators.”

She added that the processing of backlog applications for operating licenses was being addressed and the main challenge has remained the upliftment of processed and approved applications.

“On the other hand, the Transport Appeals Tribunal (TAT) is continuously institutionalised by reviewing the appointment of new members every three years. It provides an independent dispute resolution mechanism for aggrieved parties in road-based public transport.”

The transport department has also implemented the National Learner Transport Programme in 4 204 schools across South Africa with the aim of providing safe transport to educational centres and improved school attendance and academic performance. It is fully funded and provides a free service to pupils with a budget allocation of R4.7 billion.

For pupils who do not fit the criteria for scholar transport, the department distributed 32 307 bicycles under the sixth administration.