Autopax takeover from Putco leaves commuters and taxi industry disgruntled

The scheduled takeover of Autopax buses on several Public Utility Transport Corporation (Putco) routes this morning has left many Gauteng commuters unhappy, in the midst of tensions between Autopax bus operators and taxi drivers in Mamelodi.

Putco recently announced its plan to stop the subsidised transport routes along Mamelodi to the Pretoria CBD, from Evaton and Meyerton and the route through Kempton Park, Joburg and Edenvale, due to lack of funding.

Though the buses are now boarding passengers, commuters on the Mamelodi route were left in the cold earlier this morning. Autopax CEO claims that this is as a result of disruptions by taxi drivers at their depot.

Upset commuters say they do not want to be caught in the middle of a disagreement between taxi operators and Autopax bus services.

According to Eyewitness News, taxi drivers have said that while they have no problem with Putco, a privately owned operator, they do not approve of government making money from their routes.

"There are no buses here in Mamelodi" - Kagiso

Passengers have been left stranded as the Autopax buses failed to show up in Mamelodi this morning. Kagiso called in to the John Robbie Show to express his frustration with being left stranded.

There are no buses. Yesterday Mr Vadi said there would be buses, but there are no buses here in Mamelodi. My other colleagues are coming from all over and I am going to the Pretoria CBD. Now I have to walk and catch a taxi.

Caller, Kagiso

"Taxi's were outside the depot gate preventing us from operating" - Autopax CEO

Autopax CEO Nathi Kgena says that minibus taxi are hindering the transport service from operating through the Mamelodi route. He says that there was an attempt at burning down an Autopax bus at the depot this morning.

As you know, it was going to be our first day of operation in the Vaal, Vosloorus and Mamelodi areas. We started operating in Vaal, Vosloorus but the taxi's are preventing us from operating in Mamelodi.

Nathi Kgena, Autopax CEO

"Nobody told us about the new bus company" - Taxi owner

Taxi owner, Julius, says that government has treated them unfairly by not informing the taxi industry about the replacement of the bus service Putco. He feels that the taxi industry should have been consulted in the decision process and given an opportunity to take over the bus routes.

It is very sad what the gov is doing to us as taxi operators, because we were operating with Putco on the same route. But when Putco decided to pull out, nobody contacted the taxi association to let us know that there is a new company coming in.

Julius, taxi operator

Taxi owner, Joseph, says that the issues raised by the taxi workers are valid. He says that taxi drivers are frustrated with bureaucracy and politics.

"Transport MEC Ismail Vadi was dishonest with the taxi industry" - SANTACO

Secretary General of the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), Alpheus Mlalazi, says that Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi was not honest or transparent with the association.

We are having this uprising because there is no way that we are going to allow the government to continue to discriminate against other modes of transport.

Alpheus Mlalazi, Secretary General of SANTACO

Transport MEC Ismail Vadi had assured commuters

Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi announced that Prasa's wholly-owned subsidiary Autopax, known for operating long-haul bus services such as City-to-City and Translux, would take over the routes. Speaking to CapeTalk and 702’s Stephen Grootes on Tuesday, Vardi expressed confidence that commuters would not be affected by the change in operators.

I'm quite confident that they will be running well from tomorrow morning. We have other companies that we contract to including Putco, but some of the other services won't be affected. Autopax have a wealth of experience in running long-distance bus services and not much in the area of short-distance, frequent bus services, but we're confident they will get this experience in good time.

Ismail Vadi, Gauteng Transport MEC
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