The City of Johannesburg (COJ) has pledged R90 million towards the second instalment of Metrobus’ three-year Bus Refurbishment Programme.
Set to conclude in June 2025, the new project will focus on prolonging the lifespan of the operator’s seven-year-old buses.
“We took the decision to re-fleet and restructure our buses because we believe that for Johannesburg to truly become a ‘city of golden opportunities’, its public transport ought to be the first means of choice,” said Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Mpho Phalatse.
Phalatse anticipates increased usage of public transport, following petrol price hikes, which she notes will contribute towards the city’s “green thread” and subsequent decrease in vehicle carbon emissions.
“This is a huge boost for the second-largest bus operator in South Africa, which employs 890 people, operating a fleet of 420 buses, which includes two luxury buses and six special-needs buses with hydraulic wheelchair lifts,” she added.
Speaking at the ceremony, Metrobus managing director Xoliswa Mhlongo said the project – which involved repairing, refurbishing, and replacing an inactive fleet – extends the 12-year lifespan of a bus by five to eight years.
According to Mhlongo, the refurbishment will see the optimisation of 226 routes with more buses being made available.
The relaunch comes after Phalatse and Member of the mayoral committee for transport, Funzi Ngobeni, unveiled a fleet of 105 refurbished buses under Metrobus’ first three-year programme. The initial project valued at R49.4 million, started in 2019 and ended in June 2022.
Phalatse commended the municipal bus operator for delivering on several mayoral priorities and for looking to improve its services, including the potential for cashless commuting.
Ngobeni announced that the COJ allocated R60 million to Metrobus for the purchase of new buses in 2023/24 and says the city intends to fully capacitate Metrobus to run its operations without hindrance. He added that the Metrobus management and the executive board are working to return the company to its former glory.
‘2020 components in 2002 models’
Sheshvir Singh, technical manager at Bus Build Africa says the company, which is responsible for refurbishing the fleet’s exterior, rebuilt buses to a new spectrum which included integrating new technology and simplifying lighting and electrical components.
“We basically integrated 2020 bus model components into 2002 models. The buses are now easier to repair, given the easily available universal parts compared to the old parts in the 2002 models, which are no longer in use and harder to find,” he adds.
Singh says refurbishing buses was an economical strategy as opposed to replacing the entire fleet with new buses, which retail between R2.5 million to R3 million each.
“Refurbishing the fleet has cost Metrobus a fraction of what it would if they replaced this fleet.”
Referring to Metrobus’s specialised buses for people living with disabilities, Ngobeni said: “While not nearly enough, this contingent of Metrobus’ fleet is a clear demonstration of the company’s understanding of its centrality to providing affordable, reliable, and safe public transportation to all residents, especially the most vulnerable.”
Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.