By Zahraa Schroeder
A long-awaited meeting between frustrated Dial-A-Ride users and the City of Cape Town has finally culminated in an agreement, one that would hopefully, finally, cater to the needs of thousands of disabled people. The agreement comes after months of back and forth complaints to the city council, over the poor quality of service rendered by the tender company
In 2017, concerns of safety and availability of services were all raised when HG Travelling Services won the tender in 2015. Since the company took over, members of the Dial-A-Ride Forum were displeased with the accessibility of busses. Over 2,500 people make use of the services and a troubling issue was that it would take commuters hours to get from their homes to work.
One user told VOC News it took nearly three hours to arrive at work by 8 am. Due to the unreliability of Dial-A-Ride, some customers would be ignored regardless of them having booked a ride. Members added that due to this, some were fired from their jobs. When asked, the City said that it was not made aware of this severe situation.
As their contract was nearing its end in 2018, HG Travelling Services was granted an interdict to suspend the awarding of the tender to a new service provider, WCL Trading. Their reasoning was that the tender process was flawed and unfair.
After years of dissatisfaction and knowing that using conventional public transport is an impossible feat, the largely underrepresented disabled community has been left on the proverbial side of the road.
Speaking to VOC regarding the meeting, Dial-A-Ride User Forum chairperson Elroy Lodewyk, said as the legal process takes its course, it was promised that the buses would still operate on a monthly basis– all 9 out of the 22 buses.
“The City of Cape Town apologised for insufficient communication with the forum. They said the service this month may be slow but guaranteed that the end of September will see an increase in diligent work from the Dial-A-Ride services,” he said.
With an average of nine busses operating per day, only those who need assistance getting to work and the hospital have been permitted to make use of the transport services, albeit later than needed. Users need to book nearly a week in advance to secure a seat.
Only in extreme cases, once an occupational therapist has deemed it necessary, are caregivers allowed to accompany the traveller on the bus.
The City of Cape Town was unavailable for comment.