Passenger transport in South Africa, just like in many other developing countries has many characteristics that are generally absent from public transport systems in the first world countries. The first and prime characteristic is the high volume of low capacity vehicles (less than 20 seaters) in commuter services and the dominance of this form of public transport in the overall public transport sphere.
It is estimated that minibuses (taxis) account for 70% (based on market access permit volumes) of modal share in the cross-border road transport industry within Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The minibuses operate on fixed corridors and in most cases for distances longer than 1000 kilometres a single trip. The fact that the minibuses have limited carrying capacity yet they travel such long distances raises key questions in regard to the economics of cross-border operations particularly in respect to the sustainability, viability, cost-effectiveness and productivity thereof. Furthermore, it also raises questions in regard to safety of services given that only one driver is assigned to drive over such long distances.
This paper looks at the economics of long distance minibus passenger operations focusing on cross-border road transport between South Africa and neighbouring countries. It is partly based on findings from a study entitled ?Market Access Regulation? (CSIR & C-BRTA, 2013) conducted by the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) in partnership with the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Quantitative and qualitative methodologies were utilized in executing the study. Furthermore, consultations were conducted with relevant stakeholders in the regulatory environment in SADC region.
It was established that some routes are already over-saturated and sustainability of operations is under threat. Despite the fact that minibuses are more flexible than conventional buses, passengers are shifting preference towards the latter for safety and comfort amongst other reasons. Furthermore, it was also established that viability and productivity in cross-border minibus operations are on the decline thus, a new regulatory regime is required in the industry.
This paper also provides interventions that can be deployed to close the gaps in the cross-border long distance passenger transport with a view to enhance operational efficiency and productivity.
Paper presented at the 35th Annual Southern African Transport Conference 4-7 July 2016 "Transport ? a catalyst for socio-economic
growth and development opportunities to improve quality of life", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.