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Residents of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain say they are shocked at the recent announcement by Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) of fare increases to take effect from Monday. Both areas rely on buses and taxis for transport following the suspension of trains services on the central line since November 2019.

GABS says that this average increase of 2.7% is due to rising operational input costs, such as fuel, and their legacy of implementing fare increases fairly lower than the average industry inflation. Contractual rates paid by the government to the company have also decreased, leaving GABS with little choice but to resort to the fare increases, the bus company says.

Commuters Elitsha spoke to said that they bear the brunt of all the issues the company’s faced with but are stuck without a better alternative to Golden Arrow. Their concern is also for their children who go to school traveling by the same buses as well. The majority of the commuters we spoke to earn in the range of R2,500-R5,000 a month and they said that more than half of their salaries go towards transportation for themselves and their dependents.

Kariema Losper-Johnson, from Mitchells Plain, is a pay-as-you-go GABS commuter and said she prefers not subscribing to any product because she travels before the peak hour. Her daughter, however, is directly affected as she travels by bus to and from school everyday. “It is quite sad that school children don’t get any discount and Golden Arrow keeps increasing ticket prices as if we get salary raises,” she said. Kariema spends at least 30% of her earnings on transport.

Even though the bus company has announced the fare increase, a report by Daily Maverick reveals that while there might be these changes in Golden Arrow prices, it still remains the lowest in the transport industry off-peak. Taxis and MyCiti buses range between R24-R25 per trip, while Golden Arrow fares are approximately R21.90 (off-peak). During peak hour, this rate drastically heightens to R40 for the pay-as-you-go users while it remains between R20-R22 for product subscribers (weekly and monthly).

“To make the most of our product offerings and access the greatest savings, we would advise that passengers purchase a GABS Gold Card and load weekly or monthly products instead of paying cash. Weekly and monthly products are sold at a discount of up to 45%. GABS Gold Cards, a once-off purchase, are still priced at R35,” said GABS.

Thandiswa Mani, from Khayelitsha, estimates that she spends over 50% of her salary on transport. “I don’t understand how Golden Arrow can raise prices more than two times in a space of 18 months,” she said. She further raised an issue of pensioners being exempted from these fare hikes while students don’t have this advantage: “It is not fair, because unlike pensioners, students travel by bus everyday.”

Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain residents find themselves with not much choice because using taxis would add an extra R15 to get to a central taxi hub, that is Site C for Khayelitsha and Town Centre for Mitchells Plain. “Buses are still my best bet because I walk to the bus stop, unlike taking a taxi to Site C for another taxi to town,” said Zolani Kintsi from Khayelitsha.

Santaco spokesperson, Mandla Hermanus, confirmed that while they have noted increases in the fuel price, taxi fares have remained the same. Should there be further fuel price increases, he cautioned, they will have to hike their fares too.

Until train services to Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain resume, bus tickets still remain the cheapest option. During her recent walk-about with other ministers, the Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga said that they have appointed service providers for rebuilding and clearing of central lines from Nyanga station to Chris Hani and Kapteinsklip stations. Part of the clearance includes relocation of the communities that built houses along the railway tracks in Philippi and Langa.