No physical distancing in full buses

More passengers can board this bus.

Mitchell’s Plain commuters on a Golden Arrow bus barred more passengers from boarding, when the driver wanted to pick up additional commuters at a bus stop on AZ Berman Drive, in Lentegeur.

They refused to move into open spaces because the bus was already full and did not allow for any physical distancing.

Passenger Darrin Powell, from Lentegeur, said he boarded the Tyger Valley bus at the stop, just over Morgenster Road at 6.36am on Friday March 5, only for the bus to halt at the next bus stop.

“When I got on, the bus was already full. There were passengers standing in the aisle and there were no seats available. There was no social distancing,” he said.

When the commuters refused to move the driver parked at the bus stop, where more passengers were waiting to board.

The driver remained there for more than 20 minutes as two buses, also coming from Town Centre, destined for Tyger Valley, passed the passengers and the full bus.

Mr Powell said the driver also failed to flag down passing buses to perhaps take on the passengers waiting to board the bus.

He said the driver only drove after an inspector instructed him to move but insisted that he had not reached his passenger quota.

“The passengers would have beaten the driver up if he did not move,” he said.

Mr Powell said instead of arriving at work just after 7am, he arrived at 8.10am.

He said this week a stretch bus was on the 6.30am route.

Another commuter James Schrikker, from Portland, said because of last week’s incident, this week he had decided to take a 6am bus instead. He starts work at 8am.

“That bus had already reached full capacity. The aisle was full, there were people standing in front, ahead of the red line, next to the driver,” he said.

He said this was a daily occurrence and that the passengers were frustrated, knowing that there are Covid-19 regulations pertaining to physical distancing and that the bus was already full.

Mr Schrikker said passengers at the back of the bus shouted at the driver and to commuters at the bus stop, that the bus was full.

Mr Schrikker used the train for 28 years before they stopped running to and from Mitchell’s Plain.

He has been using the bus for the past five years, which he says is “much better”, as he did not have to walk far or change transport modes.

If he travelled by taxi, he said, he would have to commute to Bellville at a cost of R20 and from there pay R10 to get to Tyger Valley Centre. This would mean spending R60 a day getting to and from work.

When he uses the Golden Arrow Bus Service, Mr Schrikker uploads 10 rides on his golden card, at a cost of R176. These are valid for 30 days.

Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) spokeswoman Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said a bus had a maximum capacity for 66 seated and 21 standing passengers, totalling a legal carrying capacity of 91. Drivers, however, did not have a “quota” and often took flack for not loading all of the passengers at a stop.

Asked about how physical distancing was ensured, Ms Dyke-Beyer said: “Covid regulations allow for full seated and standing capacity”.

“Often, the passengers at the stop want to board but the passengers on the bus do not want the driver to pick up any more passengers,” she said.

Ms Dyke-Beyer said in this instance the driver had instructed standing passengers to move backwards so that he could load more passengers but when the inspector boarded, she made the call that the bus should proceed.

“Drivers are often in a tricky position because passengers make various demands of them and it can become difficult when passengers become threatening.

“It is extremely disturbing to hear that there was a threat of violence against the driver,” she said.