Johannesburg — THE Department of Transport has finally awarded a key tender for World Cup transport services, to a joint venture between two little- known companies, with tickets going on sale from Friday - just five weeks before kick-off.
African Experience Tours and ESC Events have formed a consortium to manage long-distance bus services for general spectators between match cities.
Extra bus services are needed between host cities as existing services and schedules may not be adequate for the volume of visitors expected during the World Cup.
The tender was awarded just two weeks ago, although transport consultants had previously warned that the project was a complex one as the winning bidder would need to obtain vehicles, recruit and train drivers, and sell tickets.
Services will be provided between Johannesburg, Pretoria, OR Tambo International Airport, and Rustenburg, Polokwane, Nelspruit and Bloemfontein.
Coastal services will also be offered, between Cape Town and Garden Route towns and between Durban and KwaZulu-Natal destinations.
Jeannie Middleton, chief operating officer for African Experience, said the company was ready to provide a safe, secure, and affordable bus service geared more to South Africans than foreigners.
"We saw what happened with the accommodation industry, where they are charging ludicrous sums of money that people can never afford," she said. "We wanted to make sure the service would be affordable for fans."
Middleton said 110 79-seater semi-luxury buses, with their drivers, had been made available by the Department of Transport.
She said a return ticket from Johannesburg to Rustenburg would cost R240. Ticket prices range from R140 to R300 for a one-way trip.
She encouraged fans to use the bus service as the buses had dedicated parking close to the stadiums while those using their own cars might have to walk up to 2km to get to the stadium. Fans would be able to buy bus tickets from Strictly Tickets, Computicket, Translux and Checkers, she said, from this Friday.
Middleton said the extent of the services available would depend on passenger demand. She admitted that the late awarding of the tender had put pressure on her company, "but I believe it's still doable".
She said her company had also operated a bus service for the Confederations Cup last year. "We are tried and tested and we are very confident that we will deliver that service," she said.
The Department of Transport said the bus service would help to ease congestion on the roads during the tournament.