02 February 2008

The minibus taxi menace

In the 1980's the minibus taxi industry rose up from nowhere, to become an important part of the public transport system and was hailed as an economic miracle. I heard the other day that there are 140,000 minibus taxis on the road.

With the rise of the minibus taxi industry came a new set of problems.

Tail-gating a motorist, before overtaking across a barrier line

Many taxi operators have become a law unto themselves. They flaunt the rules of the road in ways you cannot imagine. Just when you think you have seen it all, you see a taxi driver coming up with new and innovative ways to break the rules of the road. Not a week goes by when I do not have to take evasive action, to avoid being wiped out by a minibus taxi:

  • They shoot red lights, barrier lines mean nothing in their lives and they stop to discharge and pick up passengers wherever they please.
  • The sign on the back door limiting them to a top speed of 100 kph, seems to give them licence to drive at that speed in 60 kph zones. They often come thundering past me on the freeway when I am travelling at 120 kph, at who knows what speed.
  • Overloading is a problem and the carnage on the roads from taxi accidents is horrific. Some years back a minibus taxi collided with a bus in Port Elizabeth and it was reported that 27 people were killed. The bus driver survived. He was the only person in the bus. Taxi's are theoretically only permitted to carry 16 people, including the driver.
  • Taxi violence has become the order of the day. If there are disputes, someone will invariably try and solve the problem by gunning down the opposition, Sadly many innocent passersby get shot in the process.
  • And finally one of the biggest problems is the aging taxi fleet and the number of unroadworthy vehicles on the road. Why some of these are not pulled off the road is unknown to me. But the reality is that when the traffic police clamp down on them, they resort to anti social behaviour, so I think many of traffic police just turn a blind eye.

Pretty obvious what this one is doing

The Government's solution to the aging taxi fleet is its recapitalization programme, which would run over a period of seven years, at an estimated cost of R7,7 billion. Taxi drivers who hand over there old taxis for scrapping, get R50,000 towards the cost of a new one. The intention was to remove 10,000 old and unroadworthy vehicles from our roads by December 2006. I don't think that ever happened

Would you travel in this?

There are new standards for new minibus taxis that are registered now, which includes seat belts for all passengers. You will see many new taxis on the road, but the rot has set in as many of these are already dented from accidents.

Like so many good intentions of the government the goal posts keep shifting, so the programme is not progressing as hoped. In the meantime the carnage continues.

Yes, this is still on the road! And it is carrying passengers.

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