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Staff Reporter

The Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association (GBTA) says it does not intend to increase fares to make up for lost revenue over the lockdown period and reduced capacity due to social distancing as it could price them out of the market.

GBTA public relations officer Coach Mpotane told The Free Stater in a telephone interview that while they are feeling the pinch from rising operational costs, they have decided not to increase fares because it would impact negatively on their customers, some of whom have lost their jobs or got salary cuts.

“We are not increasing fares . . . in fact, we are not even considering to increase,” he said.

“We already have a challenge with increasing petrol prices and the cost of spare parts, but we can’t just increase the fares because that would have a huge impact our operations.

“Our biggest competitor IBL (Interstate Bus Limited) is subsidised by the government – so, if we increase, we may lose a lot of business.

“We also know that our people are struggling, hence we are not increasing the fares.”

Mpotane said the GBTA is also aware that their umbrella organisation, the South Africa National Taxi Council (SANTACO), is in talks with the government for COVID-19 relief for the industry and, if that materialises, it could help cushion them.

He said their profits have been drastically reduced as they now carry less passengers at a time as directed by the government, but they don’t believe increasing fares will be the best solution.

“When SANTACO negotiates they are doing so on our behalf because we are a member organisation,” Mpotane said.

“We hope the government understands our situation.

“Our profits are down 50 percent for operators using the kombis.

“But for those using the 4+1 (sedan) taxis, it could be a 70-80 percent loss because they are only allowed to carry two passengers.”

The association says its members are also struggling to service their debts with the banks due to the steep drop in business and he suggested banks could extend the three-month payment holiday or reduce the instalments.

“We were given three months but given the way business is, we may need another two months because most taxi owners cannot afford to pay,” Mpotane said.

“Another way would be to say we pay maybe half the instalments until the situation improves because we don’t want to lose our taxis.”

The GBTA has about 2 200 taxis on the road and they ferry about 80 percent of the commuters in the city and the surrounding areas.

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