The province and management of the rapid rail link have come out fighting, determined to stop attacks on the service.
GAUTRAIN management and the provincial MEC for roads and transport, Ismail Vadi, will be working together to combat problems on the service after a bus driver was shot while on duty.
MEC Ismail Vadi: Safety of drivers of paramount importanceMEC Ismail Vadi: Shooting incident of concern to provinceVadi condemned the criminal behaviour. “The shooting of an innocent Gautrain bus driver is of paramount concern to the province, but also very sad,” he said.
“It is sad because it is not only the bus driver that has been hurt. The unlawful behaviour has a knock-on effect,” commented Gautrain spokesperson, Barbara Jensen. “Not only does this have a negative impact on a macro level on the overall commuter confidence in the Gautrain system, but it also affects commuters’ finances and travel plans. It affects individual commuters on a micro level.”
At this stage, it is not known if the shooting, on 12 March, is linked to the recent strikes that have plagued the bus service and which led to the dismissal of 318 drivers.
Drivers went on strike on 9 January, demanding that the bus operating company, Mega Express, provide them with transport to and from work; it was deemed to be an illegal strike and Gautrain management took disciplinary action against the drivers involved.
Another illegal strike took place on 13 January protesting against the disciplinary action taken against the striking drivers.
“If this is proved to be linked to the recent labour unrest and the subsequent dismissal of bus drivers, it will be indeed a sad day for public transport in the province specific[ally] and the country in general,” Jensen said.
Five suspects have already been arrested in connection with the shooting, and Vadi commended the efficiency of the South African police service.
The bus driver was injured in the shooting which took place in the middle of trial-running bus routes in the Centurion area, but was fortunately not killed. “We are happy to report that the bus driver has recovered and is doing well,” Vadi said. “Thank you to all concerned citizens and frequent passengers who expressed their care and well wishes for the driver.”
This incident follows several others in which Gautrain bus services have been targeted.
Previous incidents included the blockading of bus depots, intimidation of replacement drivers, stoning buses, incidents of arson and attempted arson, as well as another shooting.
“Everybody at the Gautrain is extremely concerned about this apparent escalation in the criminal and violent nature of the attacks that we are enduring,” said Bombela Concession Company spokesperson, Kelebogile Machaka.
A solid partnership between Gautrain management and the provincial government would ensure these problems were resolved, according to Machaka. “We feel that the bus service is under concerted criminal attack and, as a private sector entity, we can do no more without the strong and decisive intervention of the state,” she said.
Mega Express is appointing and training new drivers. “All suitably qualified drivers, including drivers previously employed by Mega Express who have not been involved in criminal activities, may apply,” Jensen said.
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