Bloemfontein, 12 June 2020 at 11h00 Interstate Bus Lines (IBL) released a statement in response to calls from concerned passengers and photos on social media calling for more social distancing.
Interstate Bus Line has noted the photos circulating on social media and we acknowledge the concerns from all our stakeholders, in particular the most vulnerable. These photos suggest that IBL is not complying to the regulations as set out by Ministry of Transport. We wish to indicate that prior to Covid-19, IBL operated and covered about 99.87% of its scheduled shifts with no issues pertaining to load capacity.
IBL operations during level 5 and 4
When the Covid-19 pandemic came to South Africa, government introduced stringent measures to save lives. IBL support these measures and acknowledge that as from alert level 5 and 4 the company operated at the required permissible load with no challenges. It remains the intention of the company to comply with regulations for the remaining alert levels as it is also our duty to ensure that we contribute towards saving lives.
IBL operations during level 3
The introduction of alert level 3 presented the company with loading challenges due to the increased demand of passengers, despite our projections. From 02 June 2020 the company had to drastically increase the number of buses from 120 to 207 due to most domestic workers and gardeners returning to work.
At the time of this communication, IBL is operating its full fleet to try and comply with the regulations. Despite its best efforts, the company is unable to meet the demand and has sent a letter to the officer of the Minister of Transport to request the intervention of the National Command Council to review the current public transport limitations contained in the regulations. IBL would like to state that the issue of social distancing and loading limitations are not unique to IBL but are a national public transport industry challenge.
Measures implemented by IBL
With regard to the photos on social media, IBL has put in place a number of measures aimed at managing the loading challenges, among those are heightened media communication and various awareness campaigns that also encourages individual responsibility. The company also invited law enforcement officials to assist raise awareness and in previous communication to its passengers. It urged its passengers to limit non-essential travel, discouraged passengers from boarding buses that do not have sufficient capacity. The company also placed no less than three stickers promoting wearing of masks and social distancing, place sanitizers inside each bus and at all ranking facilities.
Despite these and other measures, the public transport industry is still faced with passengers that force themselves in buses out of desperation to get to work. In previous communication, IBL indicated that it does not have capacity to accommodate all passengers.
The company has noted that a number of its buses that operate slightly off peak, early morning buses leaving around 08h00 and late evening buses do not experience the same pressure as those operating during peak times. To this end, IBL urges its passengers to alter their travelling patterns and use buses that travel outside the hotly contested peak time.
The company records that it maintained the correct the loading capacity during both alert level 5 and 4 and it is currently operating its full fleet. The increased demand means that the company must double its fleet, a situation that is unattainable because bus manufacturers cannot supply the demanded number buses at short notice. Even if the manufacturers could supply the needed buses, IBL with its huge operational losses it cannot afford to procure additional buses. This also comes on the back on the recently announced postponement of annual tariff increases as well an indication of a possible 15% reduction in subsidy from the Department of Transport.
IBL will revise its bus schedules and passengers are urged to study the new schedules and negotiate with their employers for alternative reporting times to avoid using buses that are overwhelmed with demand. This approach would secure jobs, save lives, flatten the peak demand of public transport and help with social distancing. IBL will continue to engage all stakeholders including local authorities in finding a solution while it awaits a response from Minister of Transport. The company will also welcome suggestions from all concerned.
Interstate Bus Lines commits to supplying additional information to the media and the public. Please direct any information or questions that you might have to IBL’s Stakeholder Relations Manager, Vuyo Ondala on 051-4087016, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or WhatsApp line 083 2977 989 & SMS via 30606