Flood aftermath benefits speedometer development

Flood aftermath benefits speedometer development

  No 157 in an informal history of buses in South Africa  By Rollo Dickson  The great flood of 1968 in Port Elizabeth –an unprecedented 355mm of rain fell within four hours on 1 September in the central area – had an important consequence for bus operation in the city. Locating alternative routings for services dislocated by road damage placed heavy demands on management initiative, the biggest difficulty being communication. In the days following the flood, the general manager and his operating superintendent set out to patrol routes systematically – as far as these were usable – in their cars. They met back on Market Square every hour on the hour, comparing notes and gradually building up a picture of roads that could be used by rearranged bus services. It was a slow and time-consuming business, continuing late into the night. In many cases, no alternative routing was available. South of the city centre, for instance, Summerstrand was cut off completely, the main road below the flooded Happy Valley having been washed out to sea. Probably the most serious problem was the almost complete absence of telephone facilities. None of the company’s phones was working, leaving no means of contact between offices and depots. Effectively, the only usable phone was in the control inspector’s kiosk on Market Square – which explains why this point was chosen as the principal report-back rendezvous. Main Street north of Market Square – the major bus route between the hill escarpment and the sea – resembled a vast swimming pool. Rainwater pouring down from higher ground had dammed up behind the newly-built north-south freeway....
Khayelitsha – a transport mini-epic

Khayelitsha – a transport mini-epic

  The provision of public transport on the outskirts of developing cities, essentially a planning problem, becomes a major challenge when unusually large areas are involved. Like Khayelitsha in Cape Town’s south east, which grew from literally nothing to a vast residential conglomerate in a matter of months in the early nineteen-eighties. The existing townships of Langa, Gugulethu and Nyanga had overflowed into the vicinity of the cement factory, an area that came to be known as Crossroads, which was the destination shown on City Tramways buses. Siting criticised Already there was criticism of housing so far from employment zones. Space implications however – and land availability – left no alternative. A vast tract of open land was made available beyond Crossroads and planning began. As projects of this nature go, it was extensive – on a very large scale. A comprehensive team of architects, engineers and technicians set to work, together with consultants in various spheres. By October 1983, about 8 000 people had moved into the “core houses” in the first part of Khayelitsha, a name said to mean “our new home”. Despite firmly applied governmental “influx control”, migrants from the Eastern Cape were infiltrating Cape Town in increasing numbers, markedly swelling the natural growth of the existing population. Most residents newcomers to the city Once influx control was scrapped, the trickle became a flood. (More than 60% of today’s residents in Khayelitsha were born in the Eastern Cape.) Well-intentioned but over-optimistic plans to accommodate everyone in formal structures soon proved to be wishful thinking. Reality rapidly overtook planning, which fell increasingly behind schedule and never caught up....
Transport publications in the eighties

Transport publications in the eighties

The early 1980s were prolific in terms of transport publications in South Africa. Few, however, enjoyed a lifespan that could be called impressive and only one – Commercial Transport – eventually got as far as publishing a 50th year commemorative edition. None, except for house magazines from people like Putco and Cape Tramways, were solely devoted to buses, though some included occasional articles on the subject. Railways were looked after by Railways (now Railways Africa) and the Railway Society’s SA Rail – in addition to several regular publications from official quarters – Platform, Momentum, Commuter Times, Blitz etc. Commercial Transport was a monthly that lasted longer – much longer – than most. During the 1960s, under editors Herbert Oppel and Brian Josselowitz, a number of bus enterprises were featured. Many awards During the later years of the twentieth century, several specialist South African magazines dealing with transport came and went. Many of the journalists listed on their title pages picked up awards over the years – more than one representing different publications at various times. Names that appear in the 50th birthday issue of Commercial Transport make interesting reading; many have made their mark in South African transport and in publishing. Like Max Braun – a household name in the industry – who had launched his very own Transport Management in 1980. Max was consulting editor at Commercial Transport in 1998. In its twenty-first year, Transport Management recalled in a special issue that Braun had retired as editor in 1992 and that successor Charleen Clarke had brought home the SPA award for best transport magazine six years later. Other...
Apartheid nonsense in the old Transvaal

Apartheid nonsense in the old Transvaal

One day in 1985, the Johannesburg Star ran an article highlighting the heavy losses incurred in operating municipal buses in the city. The resultant account, it was suggested, burdened ratepayers with unnecessary expense that merited serious attention. The paper listed a number of steps that might be taken to minimise the steadily increasing annual deficit – R15.7 million in the 1984 financial year. None had much to do with running buses in the ordinary sense. The municipality ran buses for the benefit of anyone who wished to travel, the Star explained, but the costs incurred were the responsibility of residents who owned property, in other words the city’s ratepayers. The problem lay with the means of providing travel. Buses to the suburbs ran full in the afternoon peak when people were going home but were empty on their return trips. On these inward journeys to the city, the empty buses bypassed large numbers of passengers waiting at bus stops – passengers such as gardeners and domestic workers, themselves requiring transport home. In the early morning, the situation was reversed. Empty buses plodded their way out to the suburbs, returning to the city with full loads of commuters. Evening service After the evening peak was over, there was insufficient demand for service, so on most routes, there wasn’t any. On some routes, but by no means all, Putco buses came along to take the gardeners and domestic workers to where they were employed. So far, so good. At this point the paper’s reasoning became a little muddled. One could not think of integrating services, it was pointed out. Were black...
Cape trams in New Zealand

Cape trams in New Zealand

Cape Town’s colourful buses and trackless trams made a great impression on David Jones, who grew up in the city, so much so that he has created a fleet of some fifty miniatures, each accurately representing an actual vehicle. The models are especially remarkable because David lives in New Zealand, and hasn’t been back to South Africa since his family left in 1960 – when he was sixteen. Though his buses all originated as British models available commercially, they have been ingeniously customised to portray the South African prototypes he remembers. Many of the vehicles represented are remembered from journeys to and from school in the fifties. From Sacs (the SA College School) in Upper Newlands, the E6 route from Kirstenbosch was the most convenient, but service was infrequent. Missing an E6 meant running down to the main road and taking a trackless tram. In the city, one changed to a single-deck motor bus labelled “Molteno”, but these ran infrequently too. The alternative was trackless tram no 5 (Oranjezicht) which meant a lengthier walk home. Trolleybuses were always known as trackless trams in Cape Town. The City Tramways company was very particular about this – for good reason. Buses paid heavy provincial licence fees; trams were exempt. Newlands station offered the option of a train ride to town, though it lay some distance below the main road. At Mowbray, three stations on the way to the city, brightly painted orange and cream double deck Leyland motor buses were to be seen. Operated by the original Golden Arrow company, they ran to Athlone and other Cape Flats destinations. Mindful of...
A look at early 1984

A look at early 1984

“Well run” involves more than coping competently with routine business; it implies the ability to foresee and deal with anything out of the ordinary – and things that go wrong. A bus company that normally operates and adheres to demanding schedules may go to pieces in untoward circumstances. Really efficient management however will rise to any occasion. Among exceptional challenges faced by Port Elizabeth Tramways, for instance, the unprecedented flood in1968 not only blocked main roads and many major routes but devastated the company’s main maintenance facility at Brickmakerskloof. Buses were soon running again, to makeshift schedules along temporary roads, and they carried train passengers as well. Ten days elapsed before the railway came back on stream. An approach to City Tramways in Cape Town in July 1963 called for considerable initiative. Unusual demands on company resources are seldom as extraordinary as this. A huge Christ for All Nations religious rally was to be held at Valhalla Park the following year, lasting almost two weeks. R3.5 million – a vast sum in 1984 – was being spent on a gigantic tent, accommodating 30 000 people. They were to be brought nightly, from every corner of the Cape metropole. In its initial calculations, City Tramways estimated that 95 buses would be needed. This figure was later revised to 77. Though still an outsize order, this requirement could be met without undue difficulty. But there was a catch in the timing. The buses would need to leave outlying points at times that overlapped evening peak hour commitments. This involved some tricky rescheduling. In the event, full details of the planned arrangements –...