FOR SALE: The municipality is considering selling off its Metrobus service as four separate companies.Picture: GALLO IMAGES
The city of Johannesburg is considering getting rid of its loss-making Metrobus service as part of its efforts towards “building an integrated transport system”.
Documents in possession of The New Age, which give details of a Future Options Study on Metrobus commissioned by the city, indicate that the service could be split up and sold off to different buyers.
Though there are a number of proposals, the city was considering unbundling Metrobus into four companies.
These companies would be linked to the three existing depots, namely Milpark, Roodepoort and Village Deep.
According to the detailed documents, “the fourth company will assume all responsibility for the maintenance of the three fleets”.
Asked to comment on the matter this week, Nthatise Modingoane, spokesperson for Johannesburg, did not deny or confirm the development.
However, he admitted Johannesburg was “initiating processes of consultation and further investigation”.
Modingoane said: “The process will include high levels of consultation with all stakeholders including employees,commuters and Johannesburg residents.”
Some of the suggestions in the document that appear to have the support of the mayoral committee could see Johannesburg subsidising the proposed companies.
Commenting on the proposed unbundling, DA councillor Nico de Jager, said: “In terms of this model the four companies (three bus and one maintenance company) will be owned by the bus drivers, maintenance staff and private stakeholders, including taxi operators.
“The DA will lobby and strongly recommend that the entity be sold in its entirety to a single company with a 30% driver-share option that can be funded from their pension contributions if they so wish.
“The rest of the company can be sold as a company composed of the city’s own requirements in terms of BEE scoring.”
De Jager said the new companies were expected to operate on existing Metrobus routes.
“In an ideal world this would be an ideal concept, but unfortunately, the economies of scale just do not permit and in the long run this doesn’t make the companies economically viable.
“Not all routes are equally sustainable; therefore we do have cross-subidisation for longer, less viable routes.”
De Jager said the high salaries paid to drivers by the Metrobus were largely responsible for the company’s losses, which he said were estimated at R14m between September 2011 and January this year.
“More than 60% of Metrobus’s operational budget is spent on salaries, compared to the 30% of a private company such as Putco,” said De Jager.
“Metrobus drivers earn about R14000 a month, compared to the R8000 per month the drivers of the city’s own BRT project earn.”
However, Modingoane said the city remained committed to making “public transport, walking and cycling travelling modes of choice”.
He did not say when a decision on the unbundling would be made.