Over busy time frames in Grahamstown, such as the graduation weekend and at the beginning or end of term, transport companies such as Rhodetrip, JC Shuttles and Rhodes Transport are under immense pressure to transport students and other members of the community between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown. Allegations of speeding, tired and negligent drivers circled campus following graduation weekend, leading one to question how safe or dependent these transport services are. One such allegation was voiced by Tammy Roberts, a student who travelled on Rhodetrip over the graduation weekend. She stated that the vehicle was in bad condition and, in her opinion, appeared to be un-roadworthy. “As we were driving, the bus was squeaking and we heard a loud noise, but the driver kept going. Eventually the car started smoking and the engine was full of smoke and that’s when the driver stopped. We waited for 20 minutes for another vehicle to assist us,” she said. She also recounts another incident: “We were in a vehicle driving 120km and a Rhodetrip car sped past us. It must have been going at 160km/h.”
Managing Director of Rhodetrip, Matthew Slater, assured The Oppidan Press that all vehicles are evaluated for road-worthiness every year, which is a requirement for the business of conveying passengers. “The breakdown was merely a burst water pipe, which was causing the vehicle to overheat, which forced the vehicle to stop,” he explained. He went on to say that the vehicles are inspected every day and, due to their significant mileage, are serviced regularly. According to Slater, the company has not had any major incidents during its seven years of operation. Furthermore, Slater asserts that drivers work in shifts to prevent driving when tired.
Another student, Karyn Wiggill, reported that she was on the Rhodes Transport vehicle over the graduation weekend, when a driver drove through a boom at the Port Elizabeth airport without stopping, leaving it broken. She said that the passengers were all shocked by the driver’s casual demeanor and lack of response to what had happened. She noted that she did not lodge an official complaint against the company, but was concerned that drivers would act so negligently.
Transport Clerk at Rhodes Transport, Tracy van Aarde said that as soon as The Oppidan Press contacted her about this alleged incident, all of their vehicles were inspected for damage. “No one contacted us about any such incident. Not the drivers or students or any official from Port Elizabeth airport. If an allegation was made, then we would conduct an investigation and have a disciplinary hearing for the driver involved,” she stated.
The Rhodes transport office asserted that their vehicles have a tracking device, which enables the department to see if their drivers drive over the speed limit. If this were to happen, their drivers would be given a disciplinary warning. After two such warnings, drivers are no longer be permitted to work for the company.
Owner of JC Shuttles, Wally Human said they have received very few complaints over the past years that they have been operating. He stated that where they are able to rectify a reported problem, action is taken. “I am very strict about cars being serviced regularly. We buy cars regularly to avoid old cars being on the roads,” he explained.
Irene Pitso, another student that uses these transport facilities, claimed that, “JC shuttle drivers tend to drive beyond the speed limit”. However, she goes on to note that, “I have never complained about it and even if I wanted to complain, I would not know how to go about doing so.” Fellow student Lindi Mlalazi stated to that she too was unaware as to how one should go about lodging a complaint.
Complaints against JC Shuttles can be made by calling their number: 046 633 3481. Similarly, students are able to lay claims in the Rhodes Transport offices and action will be taken thereafter. An e-mail may also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. This should include the details of when you took the bus and at what time, so the Transport offices can confirm the claim is not baseless. Issues with Rhodetrip should either be emailed to Matthew Slater at email@example.com or one could visit their offices at the Stephen Bantu Biko Student Union.
This article was published in The Oppidan Press online.