No end in sight for N2 Express suspension

The MyCiti bus stops in Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain have remained empty since the beginning of June. Photo by Sinethemba Mbewana

Commuters continue to suffer the lack of a safe, reliable and affordable public transport system.

The City of Cape Town announced that the MyCiti N2 Express Service will resume in September, despite the parties to the service agreement still being in dispute. The N2 Express service to Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain was suspended in May this year after the parties could not agree on terms for the extension of the agreement. The N2 Express is a partnership between the City of Cape Town, Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS), the Congress for Democratic Taxi Association (CODETA) and Route 6 taxi association.

Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Felicity Purchase, said that CODETA approached the Western Cape High Court for an urgent interdict to prevent the City from signing an extension of the agreement with the company operating the N2 Express service before it expired on 31 May 2019.

According to a press release by CODETA’s lawyers, the taxi association is seeking relief for the the court to rule that Golden Arrow Bus Services has been unfairly benefiting from MyCiti and that the bus company was allowed to dominate the public transport system in the city and in the province.

“The Western Cape High Court at the time ruled that it was not an urgent matter, and dismissed CODETA’s urgent application and subsequently awarded a cost order against the latter. The court ruled that the matter would be heard on some future date,” said Purchase.

GABS’s spokesperson, Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, said that they would like operations to resume urgently, having “always been ready to resume operations. “She further added that since the bus company is a 33.3% shareholder in the joint venture, they remain hopeful that a solution can be reached and are fully available to the resolution process.

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In a media statement, the City of Cape Town revealed that CODETA did not attend all the meetings. “One of the shareholders, namely CODETA, has also failed to attend some of the scheduled meetings aimed at resolving the matters at hand,” reads the statement.

The City of Cape Town confirmed that out of the 154 passengers that bought tickets in advance, only 64 of them were refunded.

The suspension of the services has had a big impact on commuters from Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain as they are Cape Town’s most populous areas. “By 31 May 2019, approximately 4,000 commuters from Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha relied on the MyCiti service to get to their destinations on weekdays,” said Purchase.

Elitsha spoke to MyCiti commuters who now rely on alternative transport to get to work, and other destinations.

Whitney Pieterse takes the bus in the morning from Cape Town to work in Mitchell’s Plain. “I have not received any refund and I have lodged a complaint about the matter and I am still waiting as they are still busy investigating my case,” said Pieterse. She said they refused to refund her because she only uses the bus in the mornings. She now uses Uber to get to Mitchell’s Plain because according to her, Golden Arrow buses are not safe as passengers get robbed onboard.

Sinethemba Cawe, who has been using MyCiti bus for three years, said that they did not see a notice about the suspension of the service; she only heard about it from her neighbour. Cawe lives in Khayelitsha and studies at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town (CPUT).  She said that by the time of the suspension, she had already loaded her MyCiti card, and not being a monthly card, she could not be refunded.

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“I have been alternating between Golden Arrow buses and sometimes taxis, which cost me more than I spend on MyCiti buses,” said Cawe. 

Another student from CPUT residing in Khayelitsha, Thembela Madulube, also said that no notice was given that the buses were going to be suspended.

“I had recently loaded my card and I couldn’t get refunded because I was not aware that we were to be refunded and by the time I went, the refund period was over”, said Madulube. He now uses a train and sometimes catches a taxi, which costs more.

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