By Tauhierah Salie
Western Cape authorities have urged public transport operators and commuters to adhere to all Level 4 regulations under the national lockdown, as thousands of employees head back to work this week. In a bid to keep a sinking economy afloat, the relaxed regulations now makes allowance for some retailers, homeware, hardware and tech stores to reopen. More employees returning to work directly translates to busier roads.
Under level 4 restrictions, the following applies to the public transport sector:
- Every citizen must wear a face mask or shield while outside. Failure to have your mouth and nose covered will mean you’re not allowed to board any form of transport.
- Transport modes must be regularly sanitized, ensure social distancing and provide hand-sanitizer to commuters.
- Public transport hours have been extended and will operate between 5am and 8pm, allowing an hour leeway (in the final hour) for those on the road to get to their destinations. Essential workers are exempt from this curfew but should not abuse it.
- Operators can only to transport 70% capacity. This applies to all services including taxis, buses and e-hailing services.
- Metrorail will not operate until conditions become more favourable and the risk of transmission is significantly reduced.
Speaking to VOC on Tuesday, the City of Cape Town Mayoral committee member for transport Felicity Purchase urged commuters to obey the law.
Purchase said that the deep cleaning of vehicles, waiting areas and ablution facilities takes place daily to minimize the spread of the coronavirus in the public transport sector.
Reduced services are running and more routes will be activated once more sectors open for business. However, those who feel ill are advised to stay home. The healthiest person is the one who should be leaving the house for essential goods.
“Don’t risk your life or others by going out unnecessarily. If possible, stay at home. Use public transport if its essential but take precautions,” said Purchase.
Golden Arrow bus services spokesperson Bronwyn Dyke Beyer explained that they too are offering a limited-service and that officials are on the ground monitoring bus stops.
Ideally, the number of people the bus can accommodate is measured according to seats and standing capacity. Currently, 70% capacity translates to about 60 passengers, which is usually all the bus seats.
She said that the schedule is changed daily to accommodate passengers as their method is not an “exact science”.
“Were used to running a certain schedule, when things are normal we know how many passengers we have, now that things are (slowly) getting back to normal, We have to basically judge every single day. We also ask our passengers please be patient. It’s quite tricky trying to determine how many are going to need transport on any given day.
Not every route is operational either and commuters are advised to call 0800 65 64 63 to check the schedule before leaving home. This number, explained Dyke-Beyer, is however City-run and is not limited to Golden Arrow. It also services Metrorail and taxi passengers.
The alternative is to visit their website, “under the PDF section”.
In the case of having a clip-card prior to the lockdown, Dyke Beyer said they are trying to salvage the trips in order to save commuters from re-purchasing. But, after moving over to an electronic system, it won’t be as easy to ‘just allow people to use their clip cards.’ The electronic solution, Dyke-Beyer said, is to have the lost rides “reactivated”.
“All unused rides will be reactivated ion your card and this will be for at least 60 days from the day of reactivation. It will be an automatic process and as soon as that’s done we will let everybody know. We had wanted it to be done already by unfortunately our service provider has let us down,” she said.
She further emphasised that masks are essential and that any face covering can be used.
“We do ask passengers to play their part. We had passengers not wanting to comply (by) not wearing a mask but this is for their own safety and that of our staff.
At midday on Tuesday, the Western Cape’s MEC for Community Safety Albert Fritz and MEC for Transport and Public Works Bonginkosi Madikizela conducted a site visit of the roadblock on the M5 after the Athlone turnoff towards Kromboom.
The seven-day grace-period granted to those wanting to move between provinces for work or to return home comes to an end in three days.
MEC Fritz said it is troublesome that there has been a noticeable increase in road traffic following the move from stage 5 lockdown to stage 4. He further called on residents to continue to adhere to the lockdown regulations, leaving home only when necessary including grocery shopping and seeking medical assistance. “It is not business as usual,” reminded Fritz.
Furthermore, Minister Madikizela added that taxi drivers who are filling their vehicles over the legal 70% capacity will be faced with the heavy hand of the law. He urged passengers to immediately report any unlawful behaviour in taxis to the number *134*234#.