Bus Rapid Transit company Rea Vaya has implemented strict conditions after it was caught putting commuters in danger of contracting Covid-19.
Last week, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula complained about seating arrangements, overloading of passengers, physical distancing inside buses and the queues at bus stations.
Mbalula was irked that the company’s buses were carrying a full load of passengers, either seated or standing, and there was no physical distancing.
Mbalula ordered the company to comply with regulations and save lives.
He ordered buses to transport a maximum of 70% passengers, to screen the temperature of passengers, and said all passengers must wear masks before boarding buses.
On Thursday, Mbalula expressed satisfaction that the company had adhered to his instructions.
“We undertook to follow up on the work that we started last week and to check the state of readiness, and to respond to complaints about Rea Vaya. We received complaints from citizens that Rea Vaya was not complying with regulations.
“One of the things that we have picked up is that everything has been done, including safety measures, sanitising and disinfection of buses. There was also a bigger challenge of social distancing inside buses and we had raised that sharply with the bus company,” said Mbalula.
He said, after his evaluation, he met with the management and leadership.
“They agreed to immediately address the social distancing challenge. They have marked seats inside buses to instil social distancing. We will now have a capacity of people seated, but not with people standing.
“We are happy that there is now compliance to address physical distancing. This is the new way of doing things. We are easing down on the economy to allow production and for people to go to work. The biggest challenge when people prepare to return to work is transport,” said Mbalula.
The minister said he will ensure that the public transport system is compliant.
“Transport can either be a transmitter of good health and safety or a transmitter of the coronavirus. This is what is important, and we are addressing it every day. We must ensure that, as our people return to work, they are protected,” said Mbalula.
City of Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo said they had adhered to Mbalula’s instructions.
“We have been talking to the minister about the capacity of buses and the challenges we are facing. Our communities don’t understand and want to enter our buses in numbers. Our metro police officers are assisting stations to enforce physical distancing,” Makhubo said.
He said the majority of their bus passengers are from the townships, where they are serviced by Rea Vaya, unlike Metrobus, which is in the suburbs.
Makhubo said there was a need to augment the capacity of Rea Vaya with Metrobus, but there were practical problems because the doors of the Metrobuses are on the left, while Rea Vaya platforms are on the right.
“We are addressing the issue of capacity. National government is addressing the industry about clocking and starting times at work because communities are complaining about arriving late at work. If we don’t address that, we are going to have serious problems,” Makhubo said.