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Metrobus launches intelligent transport system, moves premises

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Photo by Creamer Media

25th October 2023

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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City of Joburg public transport provider Metrobus has launched an intelligent transport system, which includes an automated fare collection platform, an onboard bus camera monitoring system and free public WiFi.

The launch was part of Metrobus' strategic programme for Technology and Business Enablement.

The new system includes the capability to facilitate bus planning, scheduling and dispatching, along with features for a smart fleet management platform. Additionally, the platform is expected to help reduce the incidence of accidents and will also include a passenger information platform.

The system aims to modernise urban mobility and improve the ease and efficiency of travel within Johannesburg.

In addition to the launch of the smart mobility system on October 25, Metrobus also commemorated its move into its new premises at the Gandhi Square precinct in Johannesburg.

The new "nerve centre" is equipped with a monitoring and control system from which information from the intelligent transport system will be monitored live to allow for the improvement of operations.

"We are presenting you with technology that seeks to make Metrobus effective but also seeks to respond to the challenges of our people when it comes to transport and smart mobility within the transport system," Transport MMC Kenny Kunene said.

Metrobus acting MD Luyanda Gidini stated that Metrobus was not meant to be a profit-making enterprise, and noted that its fleet was aging. He emphasised that the entity was aware that the move to an intelligent transport system would not be easy.

Metrobus spokesperson Tshepo Nathan told Engineering News that the total cost of the different components of the intelligent transport system comprised R18-million over a three-year period for the onboard bus camera system, R9-million over three years for the WiFi, and R37-million over two years for the automated fare collection system. These amounts include both capital and operational expenditure, including maintenance costs.

"If the very business model of Metrobus is that it must not make a profit, then the city must sustain it through a subsidy. Now you have buses that are not on the road, and the city is not providing enough funds to fix those buses. The city is not providing enough funds to buy new buses. The city is not providing enough funds to even lease the buses. How do you expect Metrobus to survive?" Kunene said.

He added that a tender had gone out to buy between 30 and 40 buses, and that it was a fight for that budget to be allocated. However, Kunene expressed disappointment that, three months in, a service provider had still not been appointed to allow the city to start procuring the buses.

“The system of government is such that when the supply chain is lackadaisical, it affects service delivery. I think you need to talk to your supply chain. I don’t have time for things that go to and fro. We must serve our people. Our people are complaining about the shortage of Metrobus assets.

“It is a critical service for those who go to work and must return home. That supply chain must get their act in order and do what needs to be done," Kunene said.

He believed that Metrobus was the first bus company in Africa to test with a view to implementing automated fare collection. Currently, such a system was only implemented by Gautrain. He said that this positioned Metrobus as a leader among all other bus companies in Africa when it came to automated fare collection.

"In terms of our revenue collection, we're not doing well, and this is precisely why today is such an important thing, because we're addressing a lot of these issues," Gidini said.

Kunene noted that some of the bus drivers have been proven to be stealing money that is supposed to come to the city. When supervised by the JMPD, Kunene said there was an increase of 70% to 80% in fare collection compared to when the drivers were collecting revenue unsupervised.

"We had to deal with that criminality, and the onboard bus camera system will assist the operators at the Metrobus control centre to see what is happening on the buses in real-time. The automated fare collection is implemented with the view of going cashless to deal with this criminality," Kunene said.

To further help eliminate criminality, the city has employed 24 bus inspectors.

"They were told that their job is to make sure that we see more revenue coming into Metrobus. If we don't see more revenue coming in, it means they're not doing their work, so they must be fired. This is the deal I made with them," Kunene said.

Gidini said he expected there to be implementation challenges, but that Metrobus was prepared to address them.

"There will be teething problems as we implement this, but those will be overcome with time," Kunene added.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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