National Land Transport Transition Bill: briefing

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07 March 2000
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


7 MARCH 2000

Documents handed out:
Draft National Land Transport Bill
Slide presentation – background and summary of Bill

The Deputy Director General of the Department of Transport presented a general briefing on the draft National Land Transport Bill, accompanied by Ms Nothnagel and two consultants to the Department. The Bill comes under consideration before the NCOP on April 13. It will then proceed to the National Assembly.

Mr Harvey, Department of Transport’s Deputy Director General, briefed the committee generally on the draft National Land Transport Bill

Aims of the Bill
The legislation aims at formulating into law the policies encompassed in the White Paper, adopted in 1996. Government aims at taking back control of the regulation and planning of land transport infrastructure. The Bill seeks to implement a needs-based system. The Bill seeks to empower persons in the lower echelons of the industry. This legislation is transitional: local government has a pivotal role to play in its implementation but the Bill recognises that local government is still in the process of change.
Mr Harvey pointed out the main features of the Bill:


Scope of the Bill
The Bill will implement regulated competition taking into account the level of supply. ‘Enforcement’ is not used in the context of safety but refers to economic regulation, for instance, is an operator licensed to operate on that particular route.

Different functions have been separated out in the system and four main bodies are attached to these functions: Transport Authorities, Permission Boards, Taxi Registrar and Appeal Boards.

Transport Authorities will manage the transport system in their area. They are supported by the Provincial Permission Boards, one per province, whose duty is to adjudicate applications for a licence. The Taxi Registrar, an important component of the formalisation process, regulates the behaviour of every operator. The operator must be registered, either as a member of a recognised association or as a non-member. An applicant may appeal an unsuccessful application through national and provincial Appeal Boards. The Transport Appeal Tribunal is the national appeal body that handles inter provincial and cross border appeals and intra provincial in the absence of an Provincial Appeal Body

Strategic Framework
A strategic framework for the implementation of the Bill is drawn up by the national sphere of government. It will not be a detailed plan but will create a policy and planning framework within which other institutions and spheres of government can work. Provinces themselves will then design an initial framework. Anything done by a local authority is part of the integrated development planning process. This results in a trade-off between transport planning, housing and so forth. The Current Public Transport Record, a collection of data about the current public transport system, can provide a basis on which to develop transport plans.

The key priority of the integrated transport plan is the permission strategy. The Permission Board will identify the main routes of public transport. There will be no over or under supply because the number of seats (capacity) on each of the main routes will be considered.

Mr Ainslie (ANC) asked who, according to the Bill, would be considered a registered manufacturer. Would it be a manufacturer who successfully tendered, in which case would a manufacturer like Toyota, who did not tender, be excluded? Mr Harvey stressed that no manufacturer will have an advantage because there will be no reference in the Bill to the current tender process for the delivery of a particular type of vehicle. The registered manufacturer will be required to have an original manufacturer’s number, in terms of the Road Traffic Act. In other words, the Bill does not prevent another manufacturer from producing such vehicles.

Mr Ainslie (ANC) asked for clarification on the criteria to be used when granting a permission.

Mr Harvey said that where there is a need for service in terms of a transport plan, set criteria would be used. He pointed out that supply could be adjusted downwards. He referred specifically to Section 50 of the Bill which provides for the withdrawal of permissions under certain circumstances.

Mr Slabbert (IFP) asked whether such a withdrawal of a permission would be done in consultation.

Mr Harvey said that it would be done in consultation, according to the same principles used in the context of retrenchments in labour law. The Chairperson, Mr Cronin (ANC), added that there would be an obligation to seek out viable alternatives when someone is taken off a route.

Mr Slabbert (IFP) referred to Mr Harvey’s opening remark that government would be taking back control of land transport and asked whether this implied that freight would go back on our railways.

Mr Harvey said that the Bill does not really regulate rail transport. But infrastructures and routes could be affected by the planning process. He added that the institutional restructuring of rail is a separate brief of the Department.

The Chairperson pointed out that where the Bill refers to rail, commuter rails are indicated. He asked whether the provincialisation of commuter rail was not likely to impact on national freight issues.

Mr Harvey said there would be no impairment of national freight. Constitutionally, public transport is a provincial competency distinguished from ‘other’ transport. There are interface issues, for instance where a freight runs on commuter rails. To legislate pre-emptively would, according to Mr Harvey, be a mistake. Before any legislation is passed a more detailed set of options must be developed.

Mr Ainslie (ANC) asked whether there are sufficient funds in our current budget to cover the costs of a new system, especially the cost of transport authorities.

Mr Harvey said that the system being created through the Bill will be more cost effective from the government’s point of view. It should also be more sustainable because transport authorities are a more efficient means of regulation. Mr Harvey acknowledged that there would be additional costs initially and that local authorities do face difficulties. But there were ways of saving, such as on the funds currently used to subsidise busses. There was also the Urban Transport Fund which could be used to finance urban transport. Mr Harvey suggested that development levies could be implemented. This revenue raising power could be given to local governments. Such strategies could help local authorities become financially independent.

Mr Niemann (NNP) asked whether the MEC would appoint inspectors in terms of the Bill.

Mr Harvey said that, arising out of the crisis in bus safety in 1999, it has become clear that there is a lack of inspection. Taxi recapitalisation requires extensive enforcement. Currently inspectors are not legally empowered to pull over a vehicle except for inspection at a rank. This is absurd. What is required is additional manpower: persons trained, certified and registered under the Road Safety Act to create an integrated road safety enforcement authority.

Mr Cronin commented that cross-subsidisation should be looked at. He was concerned that the Bill implied a move away from this. He expressed the view that the Bill does not properly address massive inequities and historical disadvantages. He referred to Section 47(4)(d) of the Bill and said that notice must be given to ‘needs’ versus ‘demands’ as used in the Bill. These two words could take on various meanings but social needs must never be ignored. He asked whether cross-subsidisation could not be used to meet some needs. Route-based tendering held some danger because some routes would always be more profitable than others would.

Mr Harvey acknowledged that Mr Cronin had raised some important policy issues. Firstly, he said that subsidies should only be used in areas where levels of access and mobility need to be increased. The design of services and fares and the level of subsidy should be set so that there is cross-subsidisation. In South Africa, he said, the rich make use of cars and the poor use public transport. Some countries have a basic principle that commuters must be charged for the use of road space. Mr Harvey also said that there was a need for the holistic funding of transport. Regarding disadvantaged communities the previous Bill had policy principles but these were subsequently taken out and put into regulations because a policy intent could have been interpreted as an obligation on the state. The regulations would reflect the new trend of needs based transport planning. The tendered contract system and planning aims at making less profitable routes more attractive by attaching a subsidy to it.

Mr Slabbert (IFP) commented that the transport system had many problems such as a lack of traffic officers. Furthermore there is a lack of funding in rural areas where children walk miles to school. He could not understand why new laws are being promulgated when current problems were not being addressed.

Mr Louw asked what would happen if provincial MECs produce a Bill countering or conflicting with the national Bill.

Mr Harvey said that the Bill sets national norms and standards. Chapter 2 will mandate provinces to create certain bodies, infrastructures and institutions. He said that the Department was already working closely with the various spheres of government on implementation issues.

Mr Abraham (UDM) asked whether the intention to get rich persons to use public transport was not premature. Using a punitive approach, by taxing persons commuting by car, could be wrong because as yet no affordable, clean public transport existed for them to use as a viable alternative.

Mr Harvey said that the growing usage of private vehicles was expensive. For instance, freeways had to be built. In that way the punitive strategy makes sense. The transition will be difficult but Mr Harvey was adamant that government must make sure that the transition occurs.

Mr Louw (ANC) drew attention to the positive development that there would be provincial hearings and report backs on the Bill to 36 locations as well as a roadshow by SATACO.

The Chairperson, Mr Cronin, pointed out that a clause by clause examination of the Bill would be done some time after the Bill is passed by the NCOP on April 13. The meeting was adjourned.


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