JOHANNESBURG – The Competition Commission on Wednesday recommended that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) be seperated from its troubled bus subsidiary Autopax in a bid to improve the functioning of the public transport system.
Autopax, the operator of Translux and Citu to City long-distance buses, last month was struggling to pay its employees full salaries, blaming the setback on "serious operational challenges" which impacted cash flow.
Releasing the provisional report of the Public Transport Market Inquiry in Pretoria, Competition Commission’s Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said the relationship between Prasa and Autopax raised several concerns for the interprovincial bus industry.
"It is recommended that Autopax be separated from the Prasa Group and become a separate entity," Bonakele said.
"As a separate state entity, Autopax will manage its business activities independent of Prasa Group ans report directly to government and not through Prasa Group."
The Competition Commission commenced with its inquiry in June 2017 as it had reason to believe that there existed features, or a combination of features, in this market that may prevent, distort or restrict competition.
The Commission made this assessment based on several complaints in the industry as well as some complaints lodged to it by some stakeholders.
Meanwhile, Bonakele also said the Commission had recommended that Prasa’s property business, Prasa Corporate Real Estate Solutions (Prasa Cres), be incorporated as a new and independent state entity outside of the Prasa Group, to eliminate conflict of interest and preserve incentives.
Prasa is the sole owner and manager of intermodal terminal facilities in South Africa.
The Commission believes that Prasa was charging excessive prices to the bus operators for the use of Park Station – the only intermodal terminal facility in Johannesburg.
It also found that Prasa favoured Autopax in space allocation and had restricted or denied access to competing bus service operators to Park Station.
"The new state entity will manage all intermodal terminal facilities currently under Prasa Cres and other ramking facilities in partnership with municipalities," Bonakele said.
"The person owning the stations must ve separate from the person running the buses."