Putco back on the road after Soweto residents stop 50 buses over new fare
Putco bus operators raise their fare in response to ‘skyrocketing’ fuel costs
Soweto bus commuters are able to use the second Putco commute for the day, after the Dobsonville depot was shut by frustrated passengers on Monday morning, preventing commuters from getting to work.
Passengers were protesting against the bus fare increase which will come into affect on August 1.
Putco said it had no choice but to increase the fare in response to the “skyrocketing” fuel increases.
The Dobsonville bus depot is the base for 50 buses and is the largest Putco base in the township. Some of the vehicles at other depots — like Nancefield — were able to make the morning shift.
Commuters started complaining from 4am, when they realised the buses weren’t coming.
Putco spokesperson Matlakala Motloung said the buses weren’t released because unhappy passengers had held up the Dobsonville depot to deliver a memo demanding that the fare hikes be scrapped immediately.
Commuters said the increase was unaffordable, especially after Covid-19 as many had lost their jobs. She said others complained that they had not had a salary increase to match the soaring inflation rate.
Motloung said the second phase of bus trips, which begin at about 11.30am-12.30pm each day, had gone off smoothly. This commute takes residents from Soweto to do shopping and so forth and returns those working in suburbs back home.
Putco announced last week that it would be increasing fares from August 1 to keep up with the “unprecedented” fuel price increases “severely affecting” bus companies.
Motloung said the cost structure of public transport operators changed significantly over the years and the fuel proportion of total costs has increased significantly.
“Putco has been absorbing the fuel price increases for many months. However, it has now become unaffordable.
The subsidy rate for public transport has remained below inflation over the years, and the bus subsidy allocation decreased in April this year at the same time fuel prices were skyrocketingPutco spokesperson Matlakala Motloung
“Since June 2021, the gazetted diesel fuel price has increased from R14.71 in June 2021 to R25.53 in June 2022 and this has negatively impacted on operating costs.
“On the other hand, the subsidy rate for public transport has remained below inflation over the years, and the bus subsidy allocation decreased in April this year at the same time fuel prices were skyrocketing.”
The National Treasury and the department of mineral resources and energy temporarily reduced the fuel levy by R1.50 per litre, which [reduction] was later halved to R0.75 per litre.
According to Motloung, the R0.75 per litre extension will come to an end on August 3.
She said the reduction had done little to alleviate the already-burdened public transport operators.
“The bus industry, through the Southern African Bus Operators Association (SABOA), has raised these concerns and made representations, urging government to find long-term solutions to cushion public transport operators and passengers.”
She said Putco has been replacing older generation buses in an effort to introduce more fuel efficient and lower emission buses.
“Putco regrets the impact this inevitable increase will have on our passengers and assures them that the company waited as long as possible before making this decision and will continue to absorb a large part of this increase, to avoid passing it all on to our commuters.”
Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.