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Pretoria – The Putco bus company has just added 100 new buses to their fleet following the deaths of six commuters and several more people needing urgent medical attention in May.
The deaths of the commuters left the bus company under heavy public criticism because it was not the first incident where one of their buses caught fire on the road.
The recent incident saw the government instituting an independent investigation into the bus fire that happened along the Moloto Road.
This was not long after another bus not carrying passengers burnt on the N1 in Pretoria.
Putco spokesperson Matlakala Motloung said Putco was ramping up its bus replacement programme with the 100 new buses injection.
She said 60 of the new buses would be allocated to operate on the Tshwane-Mpumalanga route along the Moloto corridor and in addition to this Putco empowered local small bus companies to operate an extra 50 buses from the beginning of July.
However, Mpumalanga activist Sam Masangao, who has been leading a campaign calling for the implementation of the long promised Moloto Rail Corridor, rubbished this move as a public relations stunt.
He said the people of Mpumalanga were still tired of Putco and its burning buses that break down and go up in flames time and time again.
He said: “Putco is not forthcoming with the truth and they just continue to loot the state while placing our people's lives under threat.
“First of all, contractually, Putco is supposed to have around 615 buses for us but they do not have that many buses. In fact they operate with less than 200 buses and as a result they do not honour pick-up points.
“An important point is that Putco still has those buses not allocated under specific routes whereby we can know by number that these buses will not be moved in future. Right now they are under pressure and they say 60 buses are allocated to us. Are they registered under Gauteng or Mpumalanga? Did they scrap their old buses?”
However, Motloung explained that the introduction of the new fleet will improve the reliability and quality of service to our valued customers and reduce the number of breakdowns.
She said: “If all things remain equal, this would see the entire fleet operating on that stretch of road which will greatly benefit our passengers. This can only happen if the government awards long term contracts.
“The new buses already introduced on the Moloto corridor is by far the most extensive bus replacement programme in the last 12 months.
“We take the safety of our passengers seriously and have implemented various road safety initiatives to reduce the accident rate especially along Moloto road.
“Putco has the most comprehensive emergency and medical assistance policy greater than any other public transport bus operator in the country.”
Motloung said Putco now has a refresher and remedial driver training programme to enhance the skills set and rehabilitate drivers who have been involved in accidents.
“This is supported by our Monitoring Control Centre which conducts driver behaviour monitoring using the latest on board camera solutions to improve the overall driver and passenger safety.
“The commitment to improve the driving techniques of our drivers will provide comfort and ensure that more than 290 000 daily commuters travel safely, comfortably and arrive at their place of work every day and on time.
“We implore the community where we operate to report any theft of batteries, diesel and vandalism of buses, which causes disruption of services and makes it difficult to cover all shifts, impacting negatively on commuters,” she said.
Motloung explained that recently their buses were impounded as a result of operating licenses or permits but their biggest challenge was the slow pace of issuing permits by the Gauteng transport administrative body, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
She, however, said they were grateful that the Department of Roads and Transport has since intervened and a process was now in place to fast track the issuing of permits.