By Jonk wa Mashamba
Councillor Funzela Ngobeni, Gauteng MMC for Transport announced that the City’s bus company Metrobus has been allocated R60 million to purchase new buses in the coming financial year (2023/24).
A further R22 million has been allocated in this new financial year, to refurbish additional buses.
“While the R60 million allocation will enable Metrobus to begin the process of renewing its fleet, this is far from the R450 million the entity had initially requested.
“About R99 million has been allocated for this system in the 2023/24 financial year followed by a further R100 million in the year after,” said Ngobeni.
During the 2021/22 financial year, a total of 35 buses were refurbished, translating to R19.7 million spent against a budget of R20 million. These buses are currently being used to operate most of the Metrobus’ trips.
Eighty six of the 15-year old Mercedes-Benz 1725/59 buses were refurbished and are 100% complete while 19 of the 7-year old Mercedes-Benz Euro 3 buses were refurbished and are 100% complete. The refurbishment of the Mercedes Benz 1725 buses has seen the majority of buses returning to operation for service delivery of which six were non-runners.
Ngobeni said as political head of the City’s Transport department, he could no longer ignore the pressing need to purchase new buses as part of a long-term strategy to renew the entity’s fleet.
“Metrobus is integral to fulfilling the City’s constitutional mandate of providing safe, reliable and affordable public transportation, but the company has had to fulfil this mandate under very difficult conditions.
“This includes operating buses that are beyond their useful lifespan,” said Ngobeni.
Ngobeni said it was internationally accepted that a bus will have a useful lifespan of 12 years.
But, he said, due to historic financial challenges, Metrobus finds itself with a significant number of its buses operating that are 15 years and 21 years old.
He said the planning process regarding procurement of the new buses will begin in this financial year, 2022/2023.
“The lead-time between the placement of an order and the delivery of new buses by manufacturers might be between six to ten months.
“I will be working with the Executive Management of Metrobus and the Board, to look for long-term sustainable solutions towards bridging the gap between the funds that were requested and those allocated, such as seeking alternative funding mechanisms and revenue generating initiatives that will form part of the Metrobus’ turnaround strategy.
“These include the acquisition of an Automated Fare Collection (AFC) system, that will enable Metrobus to remove cash from its buses in order to fully account for its revenue.”
According to the MMC, Metrobus’ ability to protect the revenue it collects will allow it sufficient capacity to begin working towards purchasing buses independent of the City.
“But, due to current budgetary constraints affecting every government sphere, department and entity, I recognise that the changes I have been entrusted to oversee at Metrobus will have to be incremental but I am confident that we will make progress in improving Johannesburg residents’ experience of Metrobus’ services. This is paramount.
“In fact, we are already making significant headway.”
Metrobus has just concluded a successful three-year Bus Refurbishment Programme.
By the end of June 2022, the entity had completely refurbished 105 buses against a target of 100 buses.
“Not only did we exceed our target for the number of buses refurbished, Metrobus also spent R49.4 million against a total project budget allocation of R49.8 million – reflecting expenditure to date of just over 99%.
“This is a progressive step towards achieving industry standards aimed at bus fleet maintenance and renewal,” said Ngobeni.