Radebe: Govt might subsidise taxis

New South African Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe has pledged an institutional change of public transport and a review of the subsidy system applying to rail and buses. This includes the possibility of extending a state subsidy to taxis.

Speaking on Monday at a briefing during the government’s briefing week with the national and parliamentary media in Cape Town, the minister said: “A review of the public transport system is under way. One factor is the mismatch between the subsidies as currently determined and the types of public transport used by commuters.”

Although Radebe did not spell it out, a subsidy for the taxi industry was an issue.
His special adviser Dr Ian Phillips said a task team has been working on a public transport survey and taxi subsidies are “obviously a consideration”. He said commenting on the size of this subsidy is “premature”.

Radebe did say that “although commuter taxi services are not currently subsidised, these taxis are used by about 60% of current commuters. It is not wholly clear whether the numbers would be this large if the bus and rail services were more efficient.”

He went on to say that the “revision of the public transport subsidy system that is under way will underpin the merger of Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl and the South African Rail Commuter Corporation. This merged entity will reside under the Department of Transport allowing Spoornet to concentrate on the core business of freight logistics.”

The merged entity will focus on the need of “people transport”.

Radebe said the although public transport is “a critical input factor” in the South African economy, experience shows that in general, rail passenger transport is “haphazard, of a low-service standard and is grossly underfunded as far as the maintenance and provision of new infrastructure and security are concerned”.

Phillips said the public transport survey will be released shortly, but Radebe said there has been underinvestment “although this was addressed to some degree in the last two years”.

The minister concluded that investment in the sector remains “unacceptably low”.—I-Net Bridge

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