Cape Town background

Travel in those days
Transport in the early 19th century was limited to ox wagons, stage
coaches, horse-drawn omnibuses, the penny farthing and later

Postal Service

By 1806 a postal service had been established througout the colony.Tavelers could hitch a ride with the weekly wagon between Cape Town and Stellenbosch

1830's - Need to improve public Transport
The 1830's marked an economic upturn. Industrial and commercial activity spelled growth in Cape Town, bringing with it an increase demand for public transport. Key factors:
  • Large number of Dutch local traders and retailers
  • The end of slavery, turned slaves in wage-earning artisans and consumers, needing transport to make a living and the best of their newfound freedom
  • Regular and comfortable travel remains reserved for the wealthy who can afford their own wagons
  • Daily Stage coach between Cape Town and Wynberg is introduced but is short lived
  • The 75th Regiment builds a road to Green Point making travel easier
1836 - 1'st Regular horse-drawn omnibus
The first regular horse-drawn omnibus ran from Cape Town to Wynberg. A covered wagon that can carry 8 passengers
  • The post wagon service between Cape Town and Swellendam was introduced
  • Around the same time, the horse-drawn omnibus between Cape Town and Wynberg is established. It was manned by a driver and conductor dressed in coachman style livery. The omnibus was drawn by 3 horses, carried 18 passengers and run took about an hour one-way

PC Trench Painting

PC Trench produced a series of paintings depicting Cape Town's transport in the mid-1800's Here the Victorian coach, which operated between Wynberg and Cape Town, speeds briskly downhill

1860- A womans grand idea
As the editor of the The Shipping Gazette, Mrs JH Silberbauer wrote an article on horse-drawn trams, a form of transport that had been introduced in England. She suggested that similar tramway lines could be laid and would offer increased comfort levels due to carriages running on the smooth rails, could carry more passengers and require fewer horses. She ended the article with an appeal to public-spirited men to take up the scheme.

A resourceful business man, Henry Solomon, caught hold of the vision imparted by Mrs Silberbauer. He assembled a provisional committee to promote a tramway company in Sea Point

Public Travel

To travel to the country districts the public were
forced to travel by horse back or, when possible,
hitch a lift in a horse or oxen driven-drawn wagons

Rough Terrains
For early travellers journeys were far from smooth. Stone chips were laid to create main roads while gravel sufficed for the rest. Weather conditions such as wind water rains and storms often destroyed resemblances of roads

A new era of transport

In May 1801 a weekly horse-drawn passenger wagon from Cape Town to Simon's Town was announced. It was the earliest stirrings of an effective public transport system for Cape Town. The wagon left promptly from outside the Berg (later St Georges) street shop of Mr George Woodgate

1833 - Post wagon service
A thrice-weekly post wagon started running between Cape Town and Simon's Town
Access to the Atlantic coast was further improved when the road over Kloof Nek to Camps Bay was started in 1848

Woodgate Wagon



Wynberg omnibus in Heerengracht, Cape Town

A pencil and washed drawing by Thomas Bowler.
Photograph: African Museum Johannesburg


The GABS Genesis

July 1860 - The foundation of transport future
An Act is passed by the Cape of Good Hope Parliament allowing a company to be formed for the purpose of
constructing a tramway, horse-drawn of course, from Sea Point along Somerset Road, Waterkant Street, Bree
Strand Street, Long Street and Wale Street to Market Square.
May 1861

1 May 1861

The first horse-drawn tram at the Cape in the service of Cape Town and Green Point
Tramway Company had as its passengers on its inaugural run. Left to righ (back row): GM Atchison (Secretary of the Post Office). Hon PE Roubaix (Chairman), MM van
Reenen, GH de Jongh (Director), Catain van der Venn, Rev (unknown), P Penketh
(City Engineer), John Noble(Editor Adr. & Mail) and Stenhouse.
(Front Row. GW Murray (Editor Argus), Postmaster General, J.Lotz (Editor Zuid
Afrikaan, RM Ross, RH Ardene, J Leibrandt, H Solomon (Secretary) and Master Solomon. In foreground: J Bissel (Engineer).


The "fleet"

The CT&GPTC had two cars, Each was designed very
specifically and had the capacity for 20 seated and 12 standing
passengers. Doors on each end, stairs to the seats on the
roof and raised ceiling. Although not luxurious, the fleet
provided dust-free ventilation and headroom for the top-hats
worn by gentlemen of the day. It was most definitely an improvement on the omnibus

December 1862 - The first rails
The first rails are laid in Somerset Road new St Andrew's
Presbeterain Church by the The Railway and Dock Company. The
whole line was completed by June 1863.

Head Office

The Cape Town and Green Point tramway head
office on the corner of Long Street and what is
now Hout Street, established 1862.

1864 - The Boom Years increases demand
The Boom years brought increased demand in many sectors. Cape Towns continuous economic and industrial
expansion meant more workers and greater demand for public transport

By 1864, these trams were transporting 10, 454 passengers a year. The trans is now a part of the community life in Cape Town by the horse-drawn tramway cars are hard-pressed to meet the demand, and in "rush hour"
packed with as many as 90 passengers, pulled by 2 horses, the trams struggled to make up steep gradients to
Long Street. Passengers helped by aligting and walking next to the tram. A new public transport solution had to be
Trams carry a record breaking
128, 630 passengers a year.

Tramlines map

Cape Town and the suburbs showing tramlines built by the Green
Point Company and the City Tramways Company. Based on an
Admirality chart about 1878.

The Cape Town and Green Point
Tramway Company
is established

Mill Street Terminus

The first tram waiting quitely at the Mill Street
terminus. The canvas roof was detachable.

2 August 1861

The Cape Chronicle

A page from the cape Chronicle, dated 2
August 1861, prompting the Tramway
Hotel & Team Gardens in the route of the
services offered by the Cape Town and
Green Point Tramway Company.

May 1863 - The first horse-tram
Grand Opening of the first horse tran in SA, to Sea Point. The fare
was 5c.
December 1864 - CT to Wynberg railway
The coming of the railway proved revolutionary to Cape Town. The Railway Act of
1861 incorporated a new company and the Cape Town to Wynberg line was opened
on 19 December 1864.
1864 - Plan to go around the mountain to Camps Bay
It was predicted that if public transport to the most inaccessible parts of the Peninsula, today known as Camps Bay, could be improved, it would develop into the Cape's premier seaside resort.

In February 1864 the Brighton Estate was purchased for £475, with the view to extend the existing Green Point
tramway track and the construction of "marine villas" there. The steepness of the gradients and the insufficient water
supply needed for the track-laying operations to now Camps Bay, caused this schem to be shelved until May
the Port Elizabeth Tramway
is formed.
The City of Cape Town is permitted a new company to lay tracks
and the The City Tramways Company Limited is formed. Track Laying
commences in Addrerly and Darling Streets.


Demand for change is increasing

1880-The fleet grew
By 1880. The Cape Town and Green Point Tramway Company fleet existed of 5 tramcars, running more than a dozen trips a day and was transporting about 40,000 passengers annually.

Rebuilding the tramway

Workers rebuilding tramway in Upper Long street.


City Tramways AGM

Notice Posted for the City Tramways Company Limited Annual General Meeting to held at the Mutual Hall on 7 August 1884

A new operating company is formed in Cape Town: Southern Suburbs of Cape Town Tramway Company Limited.

1887 Penny Farthings

In the early days of transport, the penny farthings are predecessors of bicycles. These iron-horses were used for individual transport reserved for the wealthy.


Track Maintenance

Maintenance is in progress on the oranjezicht line

1881- Line to Tollgate
In 1881 the line to Tollgate is completed. The City Tramway Company buys land for E130(R260). A three-track tram shed is erected

Shed in Darling Street

City Tramways' first car-shed (marked "B") in Darling Street.

1885 More track extentions
Track extentions through woodstock to Salt River commences. Uniforms are also issued to tram staff

1886 Gas lamps and Tramcars at St Andrews Church Cape Town

Civic improvements for trade by Thomas Bowler. n/ Photograph: African Museum, Johannesburg.

The Metropolitan and Suburban Railway Company is formed with the aim to building lines to Sea Point. This is completed in 1891, but due to a number of problems trains did not start running until September 1892


Farewell Horses, Hello Electricity

1890's - A need for horse-alternative
The introduction of electricity for traction in the 1890's heralded a new era of significant innovation. After several alternatives for working trams has been proposed - steam compression air and moving cables- American go-getter *Henry Butters* proposed an electric tramway system in Cape Town. The days of horse-drawn public transport were drawing to an end. Butters was ultimately responsibile for the introduction of electric trams, in both Cape Town and Port Elizaberth. Despite the initial rejection of his proposal, he constructed sample sections of electric tramways to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system and declared that he would invest his own money in the venture.
1891 - Lighting the way
Electric lights are fitted to The Cape Town and Green Point Tramway Company vehicles.
October 1894 - Go-ahead
The Cape Town City Council grants Henry Butters the right to build and operate the first electric tramway in the city
13 July 1896

Demonstration trip - 13 July 1896

South Africa's first electric tram service is introduced - 4 years earlier than London's first electric tram in 1901. Members of Parliament and Town Counsellors partake in the first momentous demostration trip rom Toll Gate to Mowbray. WB Rommel is at the controls of the first care.

6 August 1896

The first public electric tram trip

The centre of Cape Town was ablaze with flags and the crowds milled on 6 August 1896 when the first tram was set in motion along the route, running between Adderley Street and Mowbray Hill, for the official opening.

Another new company, The Southern Suburbs of Cape Town Tramways Compant Limited is formed.
29 Septemer 1896
Electric trams started running to Sea Point.

The last horse-drawn trams

A staff group at Sea Point with one of the last horse-drawn trams

Fleet is 32 trams strong
Demand for improved tram service in Cape Town is now dictating supply and further shipment of electric tramcars arrive in the city's docks. The cape and its suburbs now have 32 electric trams running on about 37km of track. Lines run to Sea Point, the Gardens, Tamboerskloof, along Buitenkant Street and also to the southern suburbs (the line reached Wynberg in 1898).

More than 7.25 million passengers were carried in the trams in Cape Town, which led to the countries transport race.
16 June 1897

Braaken River Bridge, PE

Port Elizabeth's first electric tramway was ceremoniously opened on 16 June 1897

16 June 1897

PE's last horse-drawn tram

On the same day the first electric tram was launched, Port Elizaberth's last horse-drawn bowed out of the city's transport system.


Round Church, corner kloof and Regent Road, Sea Point

A postcard depicting trams operating in Sea Point - late 1890s

late 1890's

Early electric rail-tram

No 35 trams of the early electric rail-tram with the open to deck. Commercial advertising on tram exteriors was a long established practice by now.

1898- The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited
The Metropolitan City Tramways Company Limited, which included The City Tramways Company Limited and The Cape Town and Green Point Tramway Company, together with the Southern Suburb of the Cape Town Tramways Company (and The Port Elizaberth Tramways Company) were incoporated/merged into one new holding company registered in London- *The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited*
The Camps Bay Tramway syndicate is formed
Sea Point Railways opens
1895 - The merger
Henry Butters purchase both The Cape Town and Green point Tramway Company and City Tramway Company. Construction of a power station starts on the land of the first City Tramway depot at "The Toll" in Woodstock and was completed by mid-1896. There are three 138kw generators, 550 volts.
6 August 1896 - Official Inauguration
The first tram service in Cape Town was officially inaugurated by Lady Sivewright, wife of Sir James Sivewright (telegraph and railway pioneer in SA and politician), when she started the first electric tram on it's maiden journey through a flag bedecked Adderley street to Mowbray Hill.

The fleet of 10 new US-made 48 seater tramcars, was welcomed by a large crowd and "run smoothly with an entire absence of the inconvenience of the old horse cars"

Adderley Street

As the passenger transport system develop, Adderley Street cemented itself as the focus of the tramway system.Trams parked right in the centre of the street, while passengers had to walk across the road to embark.


Smallest tram

One of the smallest trams supplied in 1896, mounted a four-wheel truck. The front view, which depending on its direction, could also be the end of an early electric tram.


Office and car-shed at the toll

The toll bar can be seen to the extreme right - 1896


Adderley Street

Early electric rail tram in Adderley Street running alongside horse-drawn wagons

1897 - Port Elizaberth
Electric trams in Port Elizaberth start running, operations of The Cape Electric Tramways Group expand beyond cape Peninsula.
16 June 1897

PE's first trip

First trip for Port Elizaberth electric tramway - 16 June 1897


PE small trams

One of the original small double-check tramcars from the Port Elizaberth Tramways Limited fleet.

late 1890's

Electric rail-tram

No 62 tram.

A line from Adderley Street to Wyneberg opens
1899 - The War
Anglo-Boer War breaks out


Electric trams over the mountain to Cape's premier seaside resort

24 July 1900

Sea point Station

1901 - Procurement of Sea Point
Sea Point Railways is purchased by The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited with the intention to further the electricity line.
1901 - The Boers War ends
1901 - Camps Bay Tramway
After a big struggle to develop roads and track over the mountain to Camps Bay, the Camps bay Tramway Company is formed.. A shed and power station are built at Camps Bay.

Camps Bay

Camps Bay Tramway Company's power station and tram shed


Tram nearing the Camps Bay terminus.


Camps Bay tram

A Camps Bay Tram in Adderley Street. (new line) Photograph: HiltonT@Fickr

early 1900s

Victoria Road

Electric tram heading up Victoria Road in Camps Bay.


Toll Power Station upgrade

A new, Larger boiler house was built at the toll power station in 1902. The original brick smokestack was replaced by a taller of iron.


Braaken River Bridge, PE

Port Elizaberth's first electric tramway was ceremoniously opened on 16 June 1897.

1902 - Early experiment with buses
The first motor buses were tried out in Cape Peninsula. A bus service from Fish Hoek station to Kommetijie was initiated, but the sand roads proved too tedious. In Cape Town itself, the municipality would not allow buses to operate in the city for almost another decade.


The early buses that were tried on the Kommetjie-Muzenberg bus circa 1904.

24 July 1900

Wynberg Shed


Burnside Road

In 1901 a branch line was opened in Burnside Road, Tamboerskloof.
Photograph: South African Library

9 November 1901 - Sea Point to Camps Bay
On 9 November 1901, the tramline from Sea Point to Camps Bay was opened and the first electric tram went through to Camps Bay. The cars were long, low single-deckers, chocolate and cream colour. Some of the trams had a small glassed-in saloon in the centre.
1902 Scenic route to Camps bay
The first electric tram to Camps Bay via Kloof nek begins operation. A trade union is formed by running staff.
early 1900s

Mountain Tramway, Camps Bay

Post Card form the early 1900s- the spectacular line from kloof Nek to Camps Bay was on the unnamed track afterwards called Camps Bay Drive. This was intended exclusivley for trams. It only became a public road for cars in 1930.


Strathmore Road

Tram at strathmore Road, Camps Bay early 1900s


Toll Power Station upgrade

Construction on the new iron smokestack to replace the brick


Braaken River Bridge, PE

Port Elizaberth's first electric tramway was ceremoniously opened on 16 June 1897.

1904 - Post -war population increase
The Anglo-Boer War resulted in a population increase in Cape Town, as people flee the conflict in the Transvaal.
Economic depression is rife. The Cape government expropriates Sea Point Railways under guarantee from Green Point municipality to meet interest on capital and working losses. The Cape Electric Tramway Company Limited recieves E41,000 (R82,000) compensation.


The arrival of the motor bus in Cape Town

1910 - The Union
The Union of South Africa is formed, brining with a new sprint of enterprise
1910 - The motor bus
In 1910, despite the fact that WW1 was looming, a revolutionary innovation was evolving the motor bus. There were many benefits to this new form of transport, not least the opportunity to expand into new areas that could not be reached by trams, without needing to provide overhead electric traction lines.

Early motor buses

Taken in circa 1910 in Vredehoek Cape Town.

Cape Town's smaller municipalities amalgamate into the new, powerful Cape Town Municipality, which works more closely with the Tramway Company to expand its services.

Garage construction

Motor bus garage, Cape Town, in construction- enclosed by Barkey's letter No.528 1/11/1913

The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited acquires petrol-eletric buses.
1917 - The Carabanc
A brand new luxurious passenger vehicle - the Carabanc - is introduced. Its seats are made of leather and it features a six-hoped cart hood with side curtains, which suits Cape Town's climate
1918 - Influenza
Worldwide influenza epidemic. Transport services are halted for a week.

Mr Cardinal's

Wynberg to Hout Bay bus taken in Hout Bay in circa 1918


Early Single-Deck bus

Details unkown


California car'

This single deck five window 'California car', built by Brill, was well known to commuters on the Oranjezicht and Kloof Nek routes in 1910.

1911 - Request for motor buses in Cape Town
After the failed introduction of buses in 1902, almost a decade later the motor bus was tried again. City Tramways' general manager, AS Giles, penned a request to the Cape Town Municipality for the operation of buses in the city. In August the request was granted - albeit for a E12 fee and a mac speed of 16kph. City Tramways acquired its first Leyland buses, which had a fixed roof, 5 rows of seats, four-cylinder 55hp engine and a top speed of 32kph.

Early motor buses

Motor bus Entering first cutting, Chapman's Peal Road.

1914 - World War I begins
Parts are in short supply and airpot is disrupted.

Garage Operational

Motor bus garage, Cape Town in operation: March 1914

1915 - Trade union
The first union in the bus industry is formed. In 1916 a strike by union workers over a dismissal fails and the union is disbanded

Adderley Street

Electric trams are still fully operational and popular. Here you can see the various models of transport. The Camps Bay tram outside the railway station in Adderley Street surrounded by crowds of holiday-makers.

1918 - TOWU
The Cape Town and Camps Bay Tramway Workers Industrial Union is formed. It will later be known as the Tramway and Omnibus Workers Union (Cape) - Towu
1919 - Union strike
The union strikes over wages. The result is higher wages and higher fares. The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited offers to sell its understanding to the City Council, but there are no takers.


Difficult years for trams

1920's - Competitors and "pirates"
During the 1920's, many semi privately-owned motor buses appeared on the scene, competing for passenger along the tram routes. The growing of these operators, some with only one bus on the road, developed into a serious threat to the tramways systems. A force "war" between these small "pirates" (as they were called) and the tramway company transpired.

Many of these "pirates" operated with sub-standard, homemade vehicles, unsuited for the rigours of public transport, and poorly maintained. These faced none of the obligations to conform to stringently enforced fare levels, routes, timetables, wage and other regulations. The "pirates" were characterised by irresponsible driving, inadequate vehicle maintainance and minimal staff wages. Rival buses would race at high speeds and cut in to get waiting passengers. A municipal regulation ultimately had to be passed to stop conductors badgering people to board their buses.

Disregards for speed limit was endemic. The trams were disadvantaged with slower speed. With the "pirates undercutting trams and changing convenient fares, the "pirates" all but put the tramway company out of business.

Bus to Wynberg

Bus to Wynberg leaving Beach Hotel, Hout Bay taken time in 1920.

1921 - Route to the docks
The docks bus route is restarted and a new service starts from Mouille Point and Three Anchor Bay.

PE Clydesdale motor buses


PE Workshop

Similarly in Port Elizaberth, motor buses were operational. Four of the Coy's motorbuses in the workshop.

late 1920's

City Tramways Strand Street Garage

late 1920's

February 1928 - 1'st Double-decker

The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited acquires SA's first double-decker bus. In February 1929, the Leyland company in England sent out their latest double-decker motor bus, a 48 seater, petrol-engine TD1 Titan, as a demonstrator to South Africa. The Top deck was roofed, though not the stairs. It had six-cylinder, overhead-camshaft, 6.8 litre petrol engine and four speed "crash" gearbox. City Tramways general manager, MR WF Long, met the bus as soon as it landed on the quayside.


Local regulations did not permint double-deck motor vehicles and special exemption had to be obtained. The bus was to be tested in Johannesburg and sent to be exhibited in the Rand Show. The bus had to be driven up because SA Railways refused to accept it because of its height. The journey to JHB to several days to be presented many challenges due to traitorous roads, breakdowns and delays but manage to turn heads and attract crowds on the way. The trips was described by Autocar magazine as "a remarkable performance - the result of the almost impossible"


After the display of the bus at the Rand Easter Show, where it turned many heads, the TD1 was driven to Durban, its next port of call. Finally, several months later the bus was shipped back to Cape Town, where authorities sufficiently impresses to relax to the ordinance forbidding double-deck buses. Taken into the City Tramways fleet it ran on the Sea Point route for some years. Once the open stairs had been enclosed and roofed in the company's workshops, the TD1 gave yoeman service throughout WWII and was not withdrawn from service until Dec 1957, having covered well over 1.6 million kilometers.


Toll Gate Depot

A staff group at Toll Gate Depot in 1920

1920 - The Council's interest
There is another strike and another fares increase. The Council consider purchasing The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited. In 1921 however, City Council rejects take-over proposal by large majority.
1922 - A new record
The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited transports *31 million passengers* annually
1924 - Two-trolly trams
The company introduces new trams with 2 trolleys to cater for the increase passenger demand
1925 - "Pirate" bus war backlash
Warfare erupts between different bus operators. Between 1915 to 1927 large number of "pirate buses" start competing with The Cape Electric Tramway Company Limited. To combat the competiotion, between 1927-1929, City Tramways spent £100,000 on additional buses for its fleet, but to no avail.The company is no longer profitable and for the first time in the group's history in 1928 it could not pay dividends to its shareholders.
late 1920's

Coy Motobus

late 1920's

1926 - Competition grow even bigger
By now there are 53 licensed buses altogether in Cape Town, of which City Tramways, owned 31, running on 12 different routes. The following year, Cape Town's total grew to 127 and by 1929 to 244.
1928 - Reduced daily service
Pirate bus competition leads to reduction of daily service. Only 2 trams south of Mowbray remains, purely to maintain the right to operate the route.

1st Double-decker bus

Ingenious thinking by the crew of the first double-decker bus saved the day when overchanging rock presented a challenge in Bains Kloof, shortly after its departure from Cape Town, on its epic journey... The Height of the overchanging rock was first measured with a long branch. after driving very slowly they had to deflate the back tyres halfway through until finally passing safely.


Enter Golden Arrow

1929 - Cape Town looks forward despite the Great Depression
In 1929, the City of Cape Town has well-established municipality., a sustainable population and all the anemities its citizens could expect. While the world was feeling the Great Depression, Cape Town, however was a city looking forward. It was against this setting that *Golden Bus Services* was formed.
The Golden Arrow
In the same year that Sir Henry Seagrave broke the world land speed record, with a speed of 370kph in a car named The Golden Arrow, Sher Pasvolsky (50), a modest businessman who emigrated from Central Europe, started Golden Arrow Bus Services with a single, second hand 18 seater. He was soon joined by his son Issy and daughter Mary, who managed the clerical side.

Issy Pasvolsky

Son of the founder of Golden Arrow Bus Services, Sher and Issy drove and maintained the buses themselves in the early years.

1929 - Growing
The first routes were in the area of Sea Point, followed soon after by services that ran between the city centre and suburbs of Diep River, Gleemoor and Crawford. Issy drove and maintained the first buses himself, and then succeeded in the unregulated transport sector largely by getting to the departure point first - by being on the job by 03h00.

Golden Arrow's original buses

The original bus (right) was augmented by a second bus, with Issy Paslovsky (second from the right).


Sher Pasvolsky

Founder of the modest Golden Arrow Bus Services


The first Golden Arrow bus

The second-hand 18-seater bus, with Issy Pasvolsky (centre)m, who was later appointed managing director of The Cape Electric Tramways (1949).


The 4'th bus

Soon, the third and fourth buses were added to the Golden Arrow here Sher Paslovsky (centre) poses with the newly augmented fourth bus.


The first steps to trackless trams

1930 - New road legislations
New Road Traffic Ordinance comes into force. Bus owners are subject to specific routes, timetables and fares. Pasvolsky's activities are confirmed to services running east from Mowbray. They have a fleet of 5 buses and 20 employees.

Those failing to comply with the regulations - enforced thorough the newly-established Local Road Transpotation Boards - soon lost the certificates. Others sold to Competitors.

1932/3 - GABS acquire other bus operators
Golden Arrow Bus Services' fleet grows to 10 buses when Pasvolsky acquire other bus service operators including J&C Bus Services.
1930 - Testing the first tramless tram

Limitations of trams tied to tracks in the streets became apparent. There was also the question of replacing rails and other expensive equipment.

The first double-decker 'trackless tram' (or trolleybus) was sent to SA by British's Guy Motors in 1930 to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system used in the UK. Problem was that the existing overhead (rail tram) current collection was by means of single wire, the return circult being made through the rails. The solution to operate the trackless vehicle, was to trial a skate in the tramline to complete the circuit.

The first test-drive by The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited was a lunch time trip that caused such a mad rush that the police had to be called to keep the peace. 86 passengers were transported in the 59-seater. Following the trials in Cape Town the vehicle was shipped to Durban, and after tests there it was towed to Johannesburg.



The selling space for commercial advertising on trams and exteriors was a long established practice - from before 1850. For many decades, urban buses made sure they retained their standard house liveries.



The selling space for commercial advertising on trams and exteriors was a long established practice - from before 1850. For many decades, urban buses made sure they retained their standard house liveries.

End 1932 - Conversion begin
Conversion began on overhead lines of the Garden route. A considerable amount of work was required for the switch-over of wires, removal of the tram rails and other technical conversions. A specialised engineer was hired from England as the company, which laid out an estimated £230,000, had no experience in this new technology.
1933 - CET
The Cape Electric Tramways buy Heyla Bus Services ( Hanover Street and Main Road)
1934 - Ebenezer Road Depot
In anticipation for the new order of trackless trams will be arriving from England, management had to find a place to store the new fleet. With 50 new trackless trams replacing 30 electric trams; a new garage had to be constructed. The Ebenezer Road Depot is built to house the trams and motor buses. A new road (Porter Road) even had to be constructed to provide easier access from Dock Road to the garage.
1935 - Trackless trams arrive & first trackless tram route open
In 1935, 50 two-axle trackless trams arrive from Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies in England, with bodies by Weymanns. 30 were 62-seat double decker and the rest 39-seat single deckers.

The first trackless tram route is opened, from St George's Street to Ebenezer Raod Depot, then Tamboers Kloof. It is an event announced by the Cape Times as a "a good day for Cape Town".

Ransomes trams arrive from England


24 April 1936

Single-deck trackless tram en route to Kloof Nek

Trackless trams run to kloof nek, Oranjezicht, Gardens and Hanover Street. It is said that people poured out of buildings to touch the vehicle as it passed. The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited purchase Northern Transport Company.


A Leyland TD5 diesel circa 1937

Fleet no 21 of the original Golden Arrow Bus Services company in the "orange-of-cream" livery. Issy Pasvolsky posing with the bus. It will eventually be scrapped in 1953, when both the fleet number and registration were transferred to a new Diamler double-decker.

1938 - Longest trackless trams route runs to
Cape Town again entered the pages of history with the longest trackless tram route in the country. The 14km Cape Town-Wynberg section was opened in November 1938. On 29 January 1939, the section to Sea Point was taken into use. Instead of working these routes separately,through-services was provided from Wynberg by way of the city centre to Sea Point (20km), effectively creating the country's longest trackless tram route. In wiring this, some 80km of copper wire and 1,00 street poles were put in place.


The selling space for commercial advertising on trams and exteriors was a long established practice - from before 1850. For many decades, urban buses made sure they retained their standard house liveries.

1930 - Insolvency
Bus competition results in the closure of Milnerton Railway and the Insolvency of The Camps Bay Tramway Company. The last tram runs to Camps Bay.

Early Golden Arrow bus

Miss Pasvolsky (now Mrs MF Flax) and Mr H Medinicoff


First Guy trackless tram

The demostration Guy trackless sent to SA in Whale Street.

1932 - Permission
The Cape Town city council granted permission for the introduction of the traceless trams on the Tamberskloof, Kloof Street and Hanover Street routes.
1932 - First trackless tram return to Cape Town
The Guy trackless tram, which had been used for demonstration in JHB, was returned to Cape Town. Back in the mother city, City Tramways hired the vehicle for 12 months and further trail running took place on the Gardens tram routes.
1933 - GABS' first depot
With the growing fleet, a depot was established in Klipfontein Road, Rondebosh East. This address continues to serve as the Golden Arrow HQ for 30 years, though the original wood iron shed was replaced in due course by proper sheds, workshops and offices.

Golden Arrow bus to Crawford

Bus is personally seen off by Sher Pasvolsky.

1934 - CET
The Cape Electric Tramways buy the Peninsula Transport Company. This was followed in 1936 by the acquisition of the Northern Transport Company (Pty) Limited.

First diesel bus

CA 2054 was a Leyland LT7 diesel, purchased new in 1935, was one of the single-decker acquired by City Tramways from M&K Bus services (Maitland & Jensington, Cape Town). It was scrapped on 1951.


Max Pasvolsky

When Mary Pasvolsky left to marry a local doctor in 1936, her older brother Max joined Golden Arrow Bus Services. In the early days Max and Issy both drove buses, doubling as depot mechanics

1938 - Order of more trackless trams
A number of technical problems were experienced with the Ransomers vehicle, so for the next order City Tramways turned to another British manufacture. In 1938, 60 Sunbeam three-axle MS2 double-deckers arrived (Nos 51-110), with 66-seat Weymanns bodies.
29 January 1939

Sea Point terminus

At the Sea Point terminus one of Cape Town's new trackless trams turns on the dirst day's run. This run is part of the city's longest trackless tram route.


Good bye electric rail-trams, hello WW II

29 January 1939 - Saying goodbye to rail trams
Even before the trackless tram conversion began, the nuber of electric trams seen on the roads began to decrease. Cape Town becomes one of the first cities in the world to completely cease the operations of electric rail trams. The last rail-tram made its final journey from Adderley Street to Sea Point. The occasion was marked by the Mayor of Cape Town praising the efforts of the tramways company, claiming quite rightly that it could track its progrss with development of the city.

A huge crowd gathered to send off the rail-tram, No 102, which had capacity of 106 but left with 106 passengers. People scribbled remarks on the side of the tram: RIP, faithful to the end, Goodbye pal and Totsiens.
29 January 1939

Flowers for occasion

Flower sellers made a wreath in honour of the trip this last electric rail-tram will take from Adderley Street to Sea Point. Tramwaymen placed the wreath - "with Deeper Sympathy"

22 April 1905

Skeleton of Cape Town's last electric tram

In the yard at Toll Gate Depot

1939 - Start or WW II
September 1939

War front map

A map was erected in Adderley Street to familiarise people with the war front during the Second World War. Photograph: HiltonT@Flickr


Call to arms - Women

The Cape Town Tramway Company's active participation in the call to arms for women during the Second World War.


Ingenious methods

To ensure the bus services continue during the war years and due to absence of spare parts, repairs and maintenance were effected. As a result buses are built and maintained with ingenious methods that would not have been considered in normal times

29 January 1939

Last trip's ticket

Special tickets had been printed for the occasion of the last electric tram journey from adderley Street to Sea Point . Over 20 motor cars followed the tram down Somerset Road hooting, while passengers sang heartly. The oldest employee at City Tramways, superintendent Cecil Robinson, drove the tram to Sea Point while its oldest driver, motorman James Bremmer, took over the controls for the return journey.

As it entered the shed at Toll Gate depot for the last time, a crowd of the tramway employees who had gathered there blew whistles and sang Auld Lang Syne.

29 January 1939

Adderley Street

A few minutes after the last rail trams had passed from Adderley Street, workmen were cutting away the overhead cabies.

1939 - Golden Arrow during the war
At the outbreak of the war, only 2 substantial bus operations remained in the Cape Town metropolitan area in addition to the tramway company - Southern Transport (Pty) Limited and Golden Arrow. Each ran services in its own defined area, effectively eliminating the destructive and unsafe competition that had existed in the 1920s

Golden Arrow's fleet of 12 buses are transporting 1.4 million passengers annually, no mean feat under trying conditions.

Call to arms - Men

The Cape Town Tramway Company's active participation in the call to arms for men during the Second World War.

1939 - Staying on the road during the war years
In 1939, when hostilities of WW II broke out, the combined bus and trackless tram fleet in Cape Town were operating routes totalling some 178km, including Wynberg, Bellville and Camps Bay and were 49 million passengers over a total of nearly 13 million kilometres.

Although the rolling stock situation was enviably healthy for such trying times, the sourcing of spare parts soon became a problem. What could not be bought had to be made. Before long, the Tollgate workshops were turning out all the paraphemalia associated with overhead wiring, much of the small bracket material being cast by the company's emplyees. Tyres, which were beyond home-grown creativity were among the biggest difficulties.

Motor buses caused many headaches, being dependent on imported and spares that were unobtainable. The war years were very trying for City tramways Company, Many employees left the service of the company to enlist while cost of fuel and maintenance increased sharply, with the result that profit declined


The war continues, but so does growth in the CT transport industry

1940 - Wartime workshop
In a section of the workshops at Tollgate, specially set aside for war production, 28 male and 40 female staff mechanics nose containers for bombs, among many other components manufacturing for the army. Automatic turret latches imported from America featured prominently in activity.
1940 - Holiday guide and fares
In contrast to the situation behind the scenes at City Tramways, the official holiday guide to Cape Town for 1940 gave no hint that the world was at war. Cheerfully assuring visitors that the Peninsula was "well served with transport facilities". It listed nine resturants offering lunches for 1-6 (one shilling and sixpence or 15 cent) . Taxis asked 1/8 for the first mile and 3d (three-pence) for every sixth of a mile thereafter. According to the guide bus services charged 4d (four-pence) to Sea Point and 7d (seven-pence) to Newlands.
 Fact Box
A trackless tram ticket from Cape Town to Wynberg during war years cost 9d (nine-pence), a penny more than first class on the train. Trains on the other hand offered reduced-fare returns. Second class was even cheaper and third class cheaper still. Over the years there were many letters to newspapers, suggesting that transport run by private enterprise had to be more expensive for the user. Bus fares, it was argued that it would be lower if there were no need to make profit. It was a simplistic argument ignoring the fact that there profit funded dividends to the shareholders, who had put up capital in the first place (avoiding the need to depend on public funds)

Citi Tramways not covered all its own costs and paid dividends but faced additional expanses not encountered buy municipally-owned bus operations. In 1940, the company paid £7,350 to Provincial Admistration, and £2,800 to the municipality, in fees
early 1940s

First complete locally produced bus

The previous years brought many problems for Golden Arrow, but after much trail and error a complete bus was produced locally.


Import possible again after the war

After WW II ended in Septermber 1945, import of buses again became possible and here a Golden Arrow bus is offloaded at the Cape Town docks


Shipment of buses

Golden Arrow bus is offloaded at the Cape Town docks


1947 - CET after the war

The years that followed after the war were slow and challenging. Those in the group's workshops were often required to work around the dock to get operations back on track. The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited began expanding into the country areas around Cape Town, first buying out Boland Transport Limited, which operated in Stellenbosch.

The assets of Metropolitan Tramways Company Limited and The Southern Suburb of Cape Town Tramways Company Limited are sold to the City Tramways Company Limited (all subsidiaries of the latter) which becomes the operating company
Golden Arrow acquire Southern Transport (Pty) Limited, running buses from Wynberg and Plumstead to Ottery

Growth at Golden Arrow continues and in 1948 saw substantial extension of the depot in Klipfotein Road, which was now able to accommodate 60 buses.
1948 - The old tram rails are removed
Forever altering Cape Town's street scene
late 1940s

Daimler double-decker

The Daimlers gave yeoman service, notably during the difficult yeara of WW II. Some of the vehicles dating from 1930s were still running by 1960s. After the war, a handful of Daimler CWG6 and more than 60 CVG6 vehicles were placed in service in Cape Town. A few were imported, complete with Weymanns bodies, but the next batch was assembled from CDK parts at City Tramways' Tollgate workshops. The rest were put together and bodied at the new Bus Bodieas plant in PE.


Wartime workshop

During the war the company set aside a section of the workshops for the production of ordinance components. Pictured are women employees on the production line at the New Market Street workshop -1940 - 1945

Early 1940s - Golden Arrow growth

Early 1940s would see significant growth, with Golden Arrow servicing Langa Township, which had previously only relied on rail and also buying out other operators.

1941 - Golden Arrow Bus Services also purchased Pinelands Bus Services Pty Limited and Central Bus Services Pty Limited
1942 - The acquisition of Klipfontein Bus Services
1943 - Golden Arrow Bus Services purchases Eureka Bus Services


Golden Arrow Chassis

The chassis team improvised to keep Golden Arrow's bus services going during the war years.

1945- End of the war
By the end of the war, Golden Arrow’s fleet totalled 32, 13 having been acquired during the take overs. The fleet was by that stage in desperate need of repairs or replacement. Opportunities arose to buy new buses and build new depot, but funding was needed.

Import after the war

Import of buses again became possible and here Golden Arrow bus is offloaded at Cape Town docks


Boland Transport Limited HQ

The headquarters in Stellenbosch of Boland Transport Limited, which the Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited took over in 1947.



The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited began expanding into the country areas around Cape Town, first buying out Boland Transport Limited, which operated in Stellenbosch

1946 - Golden Arrow becomes a limited company
In 1946, a new company, Golden Arrow Rail Feeder Bus Services Limited, was floated on the JHB Stock Exchange. This acquired the business of Golden Arrow Bus Services, which had then became a limited company. The initial subscription comprised 720,000 five shieling ordinary shares and 20,000 6 per cent cumulative shares of £1 each - raising the capital of £200,000. A year later the subscribed capital increased to £250,000

In its first full year Golden Arrow Rail Feeder Bus Services Limited transported 12 million passengers, to raise profit of £23,136. A mere two years later profit soared to 40,133 with 16 million passengers transported.
The Cape Electric Tramways Company Limited transports 129 million passenger annually

End of the road for trackless trams

It is interesting to note that of the 861 double-decker trackless trams or trolley buses that ran outside of Britain no less that 522 were to be found in South Africa. In Cape Town, 25 additional double-decker trackless trams had entered service in 1948, but these were to be the city's last. All too soon, the trackless trams were seen to have disadvantages that outweighed that of the "silent service" with which it had become welcomed. Electricity cost is a great deal less that diesel fuel, but everything else was becoming disproportionally expensive - overhead line equipment and its maintenance. Cape Town was the first large city to dismantle its trolleybus network. This is bird's eye view of Darling Street

May 1949 - A new wholly - South African company
In May 1949 it was announced that the assests of Cape Electric Tramways Limited, which was registered in England, were to be transferred to a newly-registered South African company, Cape Electric Tramways (1949) Limited

The fleet of 53 trams owned by Cap Electric Tramways on its formation in 1898 had grown to 146 trackless trams and 164 buses in Cape Town and 119 buses in PE, valued in total at £769,611, £388,592 for land and buildings. Passengers number had soared to 137 million - a far cry from 9 million in 1898. The future is looking bright.


Good bye electric rail-trams, hello WW II

1950 - GABS carry 16 million passengers
It started a pension fund for the employees, to which it contributed £5,000 in the first 12 months. Following the signing of a new wage agreement in 1951, the company was obliged to apply to the local Road Transportation Board for an increase in fares - a penny in most cases - which was still in force 10 years later

City Tramways New depot at Diep River

In 1952, a large new depot was built for City Tramways in Diep River, Cape Town, accommodating 120 buses.

early 1950s

Anti-apartheid demonstration in Darling Street, Cape Town

During a lunchtime anti-apartheid demonstration in Darling Street, people lined the street infront of the General Post Office to protest petty apartheid policies in post offices in the Cape Peninsula. The Cape Times newspaper described the approximately 1,000 demonstrators as communists. Photograph: Cape Times Collection

August 1954 - Mamre
A bus service operating between Cape Town and Mamre (56km) was acquired by Cape Electric and named Mamre Transport Company (Pty) Limited. Routes were extended to serve the town of Malmesbury in the following years.
1954 - Strand, Somerset West & Gordons Bay
Golden Arrow Bus Services aquires Popular Bus Services (Strand, Somerset West & Gordons Bay) and a new company is formed to operate this: Cape Western Bus Services Pty Limited
1955 - Paarl
A company serving the towns of Paarl and Wellington was purchased by Cape Electric and Renamed Paarl Transport and Services (Pty) Limited.
1955 - GABS new depot
At the time Golden Arrow is still very much a family-run business. Max Pasvolsky's son Ivor joined the business. In 1955, Golden Arrow built a new depot capable of housing 120 buses on the south side of Klipfontein Road, replacing the wood and iron shed dating from 1933
1955 - Another new depot
Also in 1955, a new depot for City Tramways was completed in Maitland, a cost of £100,000 to accommodate buses running to ther nothern areas of the city

William Randall

In 1931 Randall joined City Tramways as a labourer, constructing a double tram carriageway between Salt River Road and Durham Avenue. When this job was completed, he started in stores and then went to the carpenter's shop, where he was put in charge of the wood store.

He named his youngest son Eben, after Ebenezer Road depot.

He went on to be the first coloured conductor during apartheid for the Nyanga Passenger Transport Company Limited


Ebenezer Road trackless tram and bus shed


 1953 - Apartheid
Under apartheid legislation, the bus companies were required to implement segregation on certain buses and routes.

Cape Town buses were in fact the last in SA to be segregated by law, along the lines of race. Initially hotly resisted, bus apartheid was not imposed overnight, bus enforced gradually in the hostile environment of the late 1950s.

In 1953, transport minister Paul Sauer launched an official inquiry into the feasibility of bus apartheid in the city. The managing director of both Golden Arrow Bus Services and City Tramways were appointed onto the Sauer's committee of Inquiry, which included a number of members with state appointments.

Despite some opposition to the committee's leaked recommendations, bus apartheid in Cape Town was approved by Sauer in August 1956, and progressively implemented amid criticism, protests and boycotts from all sectors of the local population - all proving futile. Not only did the use of public transport became increasingly undignified for people of colour, but these laws also impacted negatively on the bus operations and the efficiency of service.

Most Cape Town bus services remained open to everyone, but on certain routes, demarcated seats were reserved for white passengers. Not frequently this resulted in absurd situations where passengers had to stand next to vacant seats as they were not allowed to occupy.
December 1954
Buses reserved for white persons were introduced in parallel to the ordinary service along Voortrekker Road to Bellville and later similar arrangements were made on the Sea Point -City-Wynberg Main Road. In the case "whites only" diesel buses were superimposed on the trackless tram service. In any event most people preferred to take the first vehicle that arrived. Few people were sufficiently apartheid-conscious to wait 30 minutes for a segregated motor bus
1955 - Nyanga
Nyanga Passenger Transport Company Limited, Staffed exclusively by black personnel, was formed by Cape Electric, linking the township of Nyanga to the railway stations at Claremont (south) and Bellville (north)

First two coloured operators

The first two coloured men to operate a trolley bus in Capr Town were (left and right) William Randall as the conductor and MR C Adams as a driver.


The big business deal

1956 - The big business deal
1956 was a momentous year for Golden Arrow Bus Services, which proved itself in its 27 years in operation, and would now embrace the biggest role yet, far outstripping any competitor. By then Cape Electric group had acquired and consolidated all other bus operators in Cape Town metropolitan area and surroundings - except for the Golden Arrow companies.

In fact, Golden Arrow was doing better in financial terms than its larger counterpart. It had the advantage of generally shorter and better patronised routes, being essentially a rail-feeder operation. Matters came to a surprising head, when it was revealed that Golden Arrow had acquired a controlling shareholding in Cape Electric Tramways, the holding company of City Tramways in Cape Town - this caused something of a sensation in the press.

The Cape Argus reported "transaction - one of the biggest in the history for SA transport business - is unusual that a comparatively small company has gained control of a much bigger one"

The combined capacity of the companies, including PE saw 199mil passengers transported over 36,8 million kilometres. Instead of Golden Arrow taking over Cape Electric, this group - retaining Clive Corder as a Chairman - was restrucured so that Golden Arrow became the subsidiary, alongside City Tramways, Port Elizaberth Electric Tramways, and the other associated companies.

The benefits of the merger were endless. The two companies would no longer compete on the same routes and they can cover a far greater area - therefore catering for the Cape Town's expanding industry and ultimately servicing the vast number of the population, resettled under the Group Area Act. The merger companies also had a greater buying power and could streamline their efforts to meet administrative demands.
SA Government "Commissions of Enquiry" is established through the whole greater Cape from the metropolitan area.
The first rear-engine double-decker (Atlantean No 374) is introduced, but later withdrawn.
late 1950s

Leyland double-decker buses


Simonstown Bus Services HQ

In 1956 the Cape Electric Tramways Company purchased Simonstown Bus Services (Pty) Limited into which was later merged a bus service running between Fish Hoek Station, Kommetjie and Noordhoek.

The depot evolved in the late 1940s and old naval stores building.

Golden Arrow Rail Feeder Bus Services Limited sells its 3 transport operating subsidiaries - Golden Arrow Bus Services, Cape Western Bus Services and Cape Bantu Passenger Transport - to the Cape Electric Tramways Group, Golden Arrow Rail Feeder Bus Services Limited remains as an investment company, but changes its name to Golden Arrow Investment Limited.

Although in City Tramways and Golden Arrow Bus Services were now part of the same group, both continued to run under the their existing names. The road operations of Golden Arrow persisted as a separate entity for many years, retaining the company's characteristic orange-and-cream colours
Andrew Fernwick (Who joined City Tramways in 1932) retired as managing director of both City Tramways and Port Elizaberth Tramways in 1957, being succeeded by Issy Pasvolsky, who was also appointed deputy chairman of Cape Electric.

Golden arrow bus depot

A large new depot was built in Diep River, Cape Town, accommodating 120 buses


Moving forward together

1960 - 204 million passengers
By the end of 1960, the Cape Electric fleet, including Port Elizabeth consisted of 600 diesel buses and 139 trackless trams. In that year it transported 204 million passengers over nearly 43 million kilometres.

In the six largest cities, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth were the only ones without municipal-owned and operated bus undertakings.

Its routes covered separate municipalities of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Goodwood, Parow, Bellville, Kuils River, Milnerton, Pinelands, Fish Hoek, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Strand, Simon's Town, Walmer and also larger areas outside the municipalities, which were administered by Divisional Councils (e.g.,. Hout Bay).

Board of Directors of the Cape Electric Tramways (1949) Limited

Left to right (front): Dr AE Flax, I Pasvolsky (deputy Chairman and Managing Director), CS Corder (Chairman), MJ Pasvolsky, LJ Botha. (Back): LM Rood, H Mednifcoff, RA Gregory (Secretary), GW Robb (General Manager, The City Tramways Company Limited), JN Hensilwood, AC Fenwick, EE Grubb.

1961 - Decimalisation
For a 100 years, the fares had been collected in shillings and pence. The new Rands and cents were simpler to manage. The change-over made life uncomfortable for the conductors, with two different systems- and two sets of coins - in use at the same time.

Simonstown Bus Services HQ

In 1956 the Cape Electric Tramways Company purchased Simonstown Bus Services (Pty) Limited into which was later merged a bus service running between Fish Hoek Station, Kommetjie and Noordhoek. The depot evolved in the late 1940s from an old naval stores building



One of the 10 red double-decker London buses- complete with their original English advertisements - caused a sensation whenever they ran


New look - door at the front, Leyland PD3/5

City Tramways fleet no 593 with Bus Bodies 72-seat, forward entrance body in March 1964. The first batch of these vehicles were ordered to replace the trackless trams. Highly successful and reliable, an economical runner in respect of fuel usage, tyre wear etc, the PD3/5 became the group's standard double-decker until Leyland's discontinued the model later in the decade.


Leyland 7 RT diesel

A former London Transport (fleet RTL 694) Leyland 7RT diesel with a 56-seater Metropolitan-cammell Carriage& Wagon Co Ltd body, acquired by City Tramways (fleet no 755) in October 1965 and withdrawn in 1975

late 1960s

Leyland PD3/5

Highly successful and reliable, an economical runner in respect of fuel usage, tyre wear etc, the PD3/5 became the group's standard double-decker until Leyland discontinued the model later in the decade.

1961 - Centenary milestones for transport in Cape Town
SA celebrated becoming a republic in 1961 and, in the same year, Cape Electric Tramways celebrated a century of progress - moving from horse to diesel and taking giant strides in the process. It is by now the largest road passenger transport operator in SA, and possibly on the continent.

Printers plate - celebrating 100 years

The printer's plate with the emblem used to mark 100 years of Tramways 1861-1961

1961 - "Caboose" service
During this centenary year, a "Caboose" service was started, collecting drivers and conductors from their homes for the first buses on the day and taking them home after the last bus had been returned to the sheds.
May 1962

Cape Times Headline

News reported that the city will stop running trackless trams

1963 - The ex Londoners
To assist in replacing the trackless trams, 10 red second-hand RT double-deckers in excellent condition were acquired between 1963-1966 from London Transport, which retired the vehicle prematurely. On arrival in 1963, the first RTs caused a sensation in Cape Town. They were complete with their English advertisements and were put into use on some Peninsula routes.
28 February 1964 - Cape Town's last trackless tram
The trackless tram were seen to have disadvantages that outweighed that of the "silent service" with which it had become welcomed. Electricity cost is a great deal less than diesel fuel, but everything else was becoming disproportionally expensive - overhead line equipment and its maintenance. Cape Town was the first large city to dismantle its network.

The last trackless tram journey takes place along the Hanover Street route. 'Set right' ticket machines are introduced the same year.
28 January 1964

Last trackless tram

Cape Towns last trackless tram making its final journey down Hanover Street.

1965 - Tollgate House
New headquarters of the Group, is opened at a special function by the Minister of Transport Ben Schoeman. The Pasvolskys also move Golden Arrow offices (which they had occupied in Klipfontein Road for 30 years) to the new 6-floor building at Tollgate in Woodstock.
1967 - Tollgate Holdings Limited
with the last trackless tram now history, the time had to come to reconsider the parent company's title. The word "electric" was obviously no longer appropriate; In addition, the group was developing interests in other fields. It was decided to replace Cape Electric Tramways (1949) Limited with an entirely new name - Toll Gate Holdings Limited its primary subsidiary was a new holding company for the group's scheduled transport operating subsidiaries - Cape Tramways (Pty) Limited.

Golden Arrow Bus Stop

Pasvolsky and members visit to the parade where the Golden Arrow Bus station in Strand Street is still operational today.


One company, One name

mid 1970 - One company, one name
During this time, Golden Arrow's customers on the Cape Flats were to benefit from the 1956 merger with Cape Electric, when the local Road Transportation Board authorised extensions of their routes that had always terminated at Mowbray, first to Salt River, then into the city.

However, two bus companies operated side-by-side along the Main Road were anachronism. Although subsidiaries of the same parent, they worked so independently that they charged different fares. Only then did the original Golden Arrow fade out of the picture, its vehicles being repainted in the familiar City Tramways green-and-cream.
City Tramways offers to sell its bus services to the Cape Town City Council, but the offer was declined.
22 March 1972 - Flagship community project set the standard
The Grassroot Adventure Bus is the most successful and longest running of the Golden Arrow community efforts. The Launch bus trip, on 22 March 1972, took children from Santa Day Creche on a day outing to Sunshine Beach in Sea Point. The Tramway and Omnibus Workers Union (TOWU) gave the full support and the bus was launched as a joint initiative by the company and union. Drivers donated their time, when off duty, and the company provided buses and fuel free of charge. The project is a major contribution towards a well-used and much-loved local resource for young children. The aim is to advance and broaden the scope of pre-school and primary school pupils living on the Cape Flats. There is nothing more heart-warming than seeing the joy on their faces as many of them have never been further from their neighbourhood. These children need to learn in order to grow and form many of them this annual outing is their only opportunity to do so.

60 years of service

Norman James Wright, retired at the age of 80 from City Tramways after 60 years and 6 months of service.Wright spent the first half of his career as a conductor and then a driver, and in the second half as an inspector and a regulator.
He had an accident-free record for the entire duration of his career and remembered the company as one big family.
(Tollgate February 1979 Vol 7, No 2)

1975 - Bus license fees
Bus license fees in Cape Town double to R700 per bus annually. A zonal fare system is introduced for the first time in a SA city.
mid 1970s

57-seat OPS4/5 Leyland

In experimental livery at the group's Saldanha subsidiary.


ABH fleet 6001 in circa 1976

This vehicle started life as a Leyland ERT2/1 underfloor-engine single-decker, delivered by Bus Bodies in February 1968 with 64-seat body to Border Passenger Transport. It was transferred to Port Elizabeth Passenger Transport in January 1970 with 61 seats. In August 1971 it became a 57-seater at City Tramways, Cape Town. Completely rebuilt in Cape Town as a 59-seater in 1976, the underfloor engine mounted on its side was rotated through 45 degrees into an upright position. This made for a trigger floor. Although 80 similar vehicle were reconstructed in this way during the 70s. The red seen here was soon replaced with brown-and-cream.


The last double-decker buses in City
Tramways' fleet

"The last double-decker to enter the fleet - fleet nos 2700-2727-
were supplied by Busaf in PE between 1987-1990.

They were Leyland ""Victory"" (Guy-derivative Mk II) models,
constructed on modified Leyland Victory chassis taken from the
withdrawn single-deck buses, some in Cape Town and some in
PE. Each seated 100 passengers but they were not the first
100-seater in the world as Busaf had supplied 4 100 seaters to
a Hong Kong operator more than a decade ago."



"In 1978, a forward-engine ""Jubilant"" chassis was imported by City Tramways from Dennis Brothers at Guildford, UK, for test purposes. Bodied at Epping in 1979, initially it had seats upstairs only but this was changed to 47 seats up and 25 down. The vehicle will go on to be withdrawn from service in August 1993 and scrapped in April 1996."


Volunteer Grassroot Adventure Drivers

The Golden Arrow drivers who voluntarily donate their time,
when off duty to drive the Grassroots Adventure Buses

22 January 1979 - The Tramway Singkoor(Choir)
The Tramways Singkoor (Choir) started in 1975 but came to an end 6 years later due to lack of funds. On 22 January 1979 the choir sang Die Klipkaartjie Liedjie at the annual SA Society Festival. The choir caught the imagination of the audience. At the end of the performance the choir members thrust their giant clip cards into the air, and the audience responded by producing their own clip cards and waving them about.

The Klipkaart Liedjie
Soos die tyd nou aanloop,
Moet jy jou 'n klipkaart koop,
Want die sale belasting het jou sakgeld opgeknoop,
Met n klipkaart in die Big J
Kan jy die hele week ry,
So kom ry met Tramway
Sale belasting vry,

As jy voel jy wit ry,
Ry nou met die Tramway,
Dan kan jy wil en jou dolla lekkering ry
As jy voel jy wil ry,
Ry nou met die Big J,
In die Big J kan jy net waar jy bly.

Elke ou ry die caboose so gou
Want die omo [bestuurder] moet sy skof nou onthou,
Maar die ou is so bang vir die speedkop.
Onsry in gevaar, maar ons sal vir hulle bewaar
Want ons werk in Tramway, jaar tot jaar.

Die inspector is gesuitsie met'n dassie en 'n hoedjie
Maar hy hou ons so dop by elke ou bus stop.
Ons dink ons kan nog 'n kleinbietjie hou,
Maar die inspector is nessoons 'n slang.
Hy rek net synekom die kaatjie check
Want hyselkekeer op 'n anderplek,
Woah! wat sê die Arabiere nou?

Die petrol word vas gehou
Maar die Big J moetmoselke dag laat ry.

So, kry jou klipkaartjie nou
late 1970 - Segregated buses withdrawn
"By now, City Tramways in Cape Town- Increasingly frustrated by necessity to run separate uneconomic buses during apartheid - quietly and unobtrusively removed various apartheid measure. In May 1979, the last ""Whites only"" bus was withdrawn from service."
early 1972 - Central workshop complex
City Tramways opens a small temporary depot in leased premises in Epping Industria while construction of the comprehensive new workshop complex (later knows as Multimech) is taking place.

The unit shop and engine area were finished early 1974, followed by the machine, engineering and blacksmith's shops, and change-rooms. The store and office block came on stream next, with the paint and body shops last to be handed over. These featured special racking for accessing the sides of the double-decker buses and the incorporation of a spray booth/cooker for painting in a safe, temperature -controlled environment.

In November 1974, the final staff movement took place from from Tollgate in Woodstock to the impressive new facility - probably the best equipped of its kind in Western Cape. Some 20 years later they were to be joined by the main administrative division. Since then the present-day Golden Arrow's HQ have occupied the southernmost buildings on the site.

One of the annual Grassroot Adventure Bus Trips

1974 - Max retires
Max Pasvolsky retires from the Tollgate Holdings Board in 1974 and died 2 years later in 1976
1975 - Issy as chairman
Issy Pasvolsky is appointed chairman on Tollgate Holdings Limited

Beyond the call of duty

For James Feni, an OMO (one-man-operator-driver and conductor), 22 September 1975 was just another day on the job, driving from Nyanga to Langa.

Approximately 3 stops from Nyanga Terminus, he heard a commotion on the bus. after stopping to investigate he realised that a passenger had given birth on the bus. With great presence of mind, James immediately turned his bus around and raced to the local clinic.Approximately 3 stops from Nyanga Terminus, he heard a commotion on the bus. after stopping to investigate he realised that a passenger had given birth on the bus. With great presence of mind, James immediately turned his bus around and raced to the local clinic.


Fleet No 1799 - City Tramways

"This was one of 115 vert satisfactory and reliable 82-seater (numbered 1701-1815) supplied in 1976 by Busaf , which modified Leyland (Guy-derivative) ""Victory"" chassis originally intended for single-deck use. In this ""mark 2"" version, the forward axle was moved to a position beneath the engine, which the doorway relocated behind rather than ahead of the axle (as on the 1975 Mark 1 version, fleet No 1601). The very successful modification resulted in the better passenger flow, in and out of the vehicle, and much less heavy tyre wear at the front. This version was powered by a Gardner engine. In all Busaf delivered more than 200 new buses to City Tramways in these two years."

1978 - Celebration
The centenary of the foundation of City Tramways Limited is celebrated

Daimler CVG6LX-30 diesel

Daimler CVG6LX-30 diesel with 79-seat Bus Bodies coachwork - new at PE Passenger Transport (fleet 707) in January 1966 - was transferred to City Tramways, Cape Town in December 1978 (fleet no 450). It was later transferred to Boland Passenger Transport.


Employee Identification badges

worn by employees throughout the years

February 1979 - Grassroot song
Richard Johnson, a Tramway driver scribbled, these words on the back of this invitation to a Grassroots function and the verses are set to the music od the traditional song, "Old Black Joe".
Old Black Joe work for Tramway Co
Driving a bus and ready to go
He work all day and sometimes night
He got his pay and feels alright

Driver Joe,drive all over the land,
Driver Joe, we all give you a hand
(Repeat after each verse)

one fine day Mr Benade come,
To ask bus drivers to give a sum,
And to take smal children to swin and play
In a bus round Peninsula one fine day
Then one day a bus driver come,
To take the children to have some fun,
We went to the airport to see a jet
But it rained so hard, we all got wet
Another time to museums we went
There the children saw an elephant
They came back home and started to draw
And the pictures came in more
Then down to Kristenbosch we went
The children's eyes so big they went
They laughed and sang a lovely song
As the driver rode along
Tonight we are here to enjoy the stay,
So look at this in a different way,
it's for the childrenwe do these deeds,
And God will bless us all day.

(Tollgate February 1979 Vol 7, No 2)
Old Black Joe work for Tramway Co
Driving a bus and ready to go
He work all day and sometimes night
He got his pay and feels alright

Driver Joe,drive all over the land,
Driver Joe, we all give you a hand
(Repeat after each verse)

one fine day Mr Benade come,
To ask bus drivers to give a sum,
And to take small children to swim and play
In a bus round Peninsula one fine day
Then one day a bus driver come,
To take the children to have some fun,
We went to the airport to see a jet
But it rained so hard, we all got wet
Another time to museums we went
There the children saw an elaphant
They came back home and started to draw
And the pictures came in more
Then down to Kirstenbosch we went
The children's eyes so big they went
They laughed and sang a lovely song
As the driver rode along
Tonight we are here to enjoy the stay,
So look at this in a different way,
it's for the childrenwe do these deeds,
And God will bless us all day.

(Tollgate February 1979 Vol 7, No 2)


Moving forward together

An era ends
For 5 decades, the Pasvolskys had been synonymous with buses in Western Cape. When issy Pasvolsky retired as a chairman of the Tollgate Holdings in 1980, the Pasvolsky era ended. His stepping down came 51 years after that second-hand, 18 -seater bus carried the first Golden Arrow passengers back in 1929

"Standee Buses"

"This was the first of the so-called ""standee buses"" at City Tramways, a;; built at the Epping central workshop in 1980/81 - fleet nos 1301-1432. ""Perimeter"" (back-to the windows) seating was fitted for 41 passengers, which made room for a max number of standees and the vehicle were licensed to carry 55 standing. The rear doorway (later removed) was fitted with one-way turnstile to prevent entry. More than a 100 further standee buses were built in 1982 and 1983 - fleet nos 1433-1552."


UCT mobile clinic

Early in 1983, as a community project for Shawco (UCT student health and welfare organisation) City Tramways engineering staff converted a withdrawn Leyland OPS4/5 into a mobile clinic. The front part of the sallon was the waiting room. The rear half featured 3 examination chairs, a changing cubicle, shelfs for equipment and a wash basin.

The Leyland OPS4/5 was discontinued in the late 1969s.

Cape Town city centre bus stations
Until 1983, the starting points for City Tramways buses in the city had been located along the eastern kerb of Adderley Street, south of the railway station, in St Georges Street, at the bottom of Plein Street and along the northern kerb of Castle Street.

During 1983, most of these were moved to the new centre-city bus station, linked by below-ground walkways and escalators to the Golden Acre Shopping and Office Complex and the main railway station. In the same year, provincial adminstration increased bus license fees by a third, taking the bill to R670 million annually.
Arrowgate depot opens
Arrowgate depot took shape and opened in 1984. Construction started in late 1970s after a portion of ground was acquired from the King David Golf course in Montana. At that stage, Arrowgate was the biggest bus servicing facility in the southern hemisphere and cost R12 million. In 2011 that would have been closer to R190 million. The facility can accommodate 450 buses
ERF buses Joins the fleet
during 1984 and 1985, 79 *Trailblazer* single-decker built by ERF in UK, entered the City Tramways fleet. Thee represented the second significant intake of buses from outside the Leyland stable. Many more ERF buses were acquired during the 1980s.

Arrowgate Depot

During the 1980s, advertising on Cape Town buses was gradually discontinued and was not pursued with one or two exceptions - into the post-2000 Golden Arrow era.
29 Februry 1988

Tollgate Holdings Limited Board of Directors

Left to right (seated): Dr GWG Browne, Dr MD Marais (Chairman), EE Grubb, JC Karney, L Flax, Left to right (standing): IA Bocock(Secretary), CA Stride, AB Eksteen, J Barnard (Managing Director), AJ Boughey, NS Cronje and N Blackshaw (Financial Director).


Tollgate Holdings Ltd Board of Directors

Left to right (seated): Barry Gie (Regional Director: Western Cape), Johann Barnard, Hennie Diedericks (Executives Chairman), Nic Cronje (manging Director) and Niel Blackshaw. Standing: Francois Potgieter (executive Director), Hannes Grebe (Reginal Director: Eastern Cape), Stephanus Pretorius (Regional Director: Transvaal), Murray Louw, Mark Wilkin (Financial director), Dennis Biccard (Secretary) and Mike Forder (Regional Director: Natal).

"Tollgate Fiasco"
with the purchase of United Transport in the late 1980s, Tollgate Group owned the largest passenger services operation in the country, with combined fleet of approximately 3,500 buses. This critical mass provided a sound basis for the group's ventures into other businss sectors, but ironically also lead to its demise as it was plunged into excessive debt.
The City Tramways temporary depot on leased property in Evans Avenue, Epping industria, closed. Activities are transferred to the new central workshops complex in Bofors Circle, Epping.
A Driver's Prayer
Dear lord, before I take my place
Today behind the wheel
Please let me come with a humble heart
Before Thy throne to kneel.

And pray, that I am fit to drive
Each busy thoroughfare
And that I keep a watchfull eye
Let some small child be there.

And keep me thinking constantly
About the golden rule
When driving pass the playground zones
or by some busy school.

Then when I stop to give someone
His right to cross the street,
Let me my brother's keeper be
And spare a life that's sweet.

Please make me feel this bus I drive
You gave me to enjoy,
And that its purpose is to serve
Mankind - but not destroy

-Inspector Joseph Booi of Simon's Town depot

Old manually- operated destination blinds.

For more than 100 years, the company relied on the traditional destination blinds at the front of the bus. The system worked well while the number of names to be shown remained relatively few, but the size of the roll became increasingly cumbersome as additional routes were added and turning the control handles became an onerous task.

Enforced by government
The Cape Provincial Government paid City Tramways a grant, to operate separate seats/buses in the Sea Point area, until 1984 when the company refused to continue doing so. The bottom level on double-deck bus buses was reserved for white passengers, whereas single-deck buses had allocated reserved seats. The first bus subsidies were paid to Putco following boycott in Alexandria - with a levy paid by employers.
First bus lanes
Following repeated representations to the municipality by City Tramways for more than 10yrs, the first traffic lanes in the city reserved for buses were introduced. These were at the kerbside of klipfontein Road in athlone. 25,000 vehicles using the road daily no less than 1,100 were buses which conveyed some 9,000 passengers between 6h00 and 08h00.

Construction began in early 1987 on an 15-loading-bay bus station in Bellville, a 2yr project that provided a valuable, new well-designed amenity.
Tramway Holdings
The name of the Tollgate Group's holding company for bus interest, Cape Tramways (Pty) Limited, was changed to Tramways Holdings Limited.

In the second half of the 1988 Tollgate Holdings Limited was acquired by the Duros Group.

The 1st and the 100th AAD buses

Built at Multimech - October 1986 to March 1988

40 new 69-seater single-deckers on Associated automative Distributors (AAD) under-floor mid-engine chassis, with air suspension and power steering, were taken into service following an official launch in June 1988. Fleet Nos 2400-2439 were bodied in-house at Golden Arrow's Multimech workshops, featuring frames of 3CR12 stainless steel and conforming to stringent SA Bureau of Standards specifications for roll-over protection. The electronic speedometers and LED destination indicators were designed, manufactured and installed by Multimech's own technical experts


The CTRL Board


Cape Times, 6 June 1988

Photograph: Cape Times Collection


Turbulent decade


Bus choir hits the right notes

Members of the Tramway Malay Choir with trophies they won in the annual choir competition.

The Tramways singkoor (Choir) started in 1975 but came to an end 6 years later due to lack of funds. On 22 january 1979 the choirs sang Die Klipkaartjie Leidjie at the annual SA Choral Society Festival. The choir caught the imagination of the audience responded by producing their own clip cards and waving them about.

Some enthusiastic members re-launched the choir in 1988 and became a popular feature at functions. In January 1990 the choir participated in the annual choir competition held at the Three Arts Theatre in Diep River where they took first place for best combined chorus and placed second in the Netherlands song category. They were also placed second in both solo and comic song categories, and third in the best dressed category. They continued over the years, but due to lack of funds, the ceased performing in 2009/


Nelson Mandela's release

Nelson Mandela with Winnie Mandela as he is released from Victor Verster Prison, walking hand in hand with clenched fists. It had been a long walk to freedom. The event was broadcasted live all over the world.

Photograph: Graeme Williams

27 June 1992 Turbulent early years
Boland Passenger Transport had been running at a substantial loss for some time. After 27 june 1992, services were withdrawn from strand, Somerset West, Gordons Bay, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington, Franschhoek and Malmesbury, A Golden Arrow route was retained beyoond Khayelitsha to Macassar, Somerset West and Strand and has continued to be in operation. retaining the fleet in the new livery, based closely on the original Golden Arrow's livery scheme, proceeded systematically and was to be completed in 2 years.

In the following years, the Company would suffer heavy operating losses as a result of poor economic climate and political turmoil, but kept afloat with the support of its bankers and the company's depots stood together in support of the National peace Accord sugned by organisations and political parties who committed themselves to the promotion of *peace, harmony and prosperity in violence-stricken communities*

Attack on drivers and passengers

Following general mass action in the townships, minibus taxi operators to incite violence against bus drivers and passengers. The company was forced to relocate the Nyanga bus terminus. The violence continued sporadically and by December 1992 3 bus drivers had been tragecally killed in taxi related violence.

A pattern soon began to emerge, where political action would be exploited by minibus operators to incite violence against buses and the company kept the buses out of black areas. Violence in these areas between July and August 1993 claimed a total of 1189 lives, which included another 3 bus drivers.


Open warfare erupts

In September 1993, open warfare erupts against Cape Town buses, the apparent reason being that the minibus-taxi wanted the buses out of the townships so that they can takover the passengers.

A spate of violent attacks forced the withdrawal of buses from Khayelitsha for many months- a foretaste of similar troubles that were to recur several times in the following years.


Nelson Mandela


April 1994 heralded a new political dispension with the holding of the country's first truly democratic elections and government passing from NP control to a new order under the ANC. Adjustments in labour legislation and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) were to alter the way things were done. The new government's thoughts on transpot appeared after 2 years in the form of white paper, but there were to be much rethinking and changes in direction, which did not make matters easy for bus operators.

7 June 1994

Garrow Holdings (Pty) Ltd Board Meeting

The team that engineered the management buyout. Left to right(front) Barry Gie (Executive Director), Nic Cronje (CEO) and Mark Wilkin (Financial Director), (Back) Frans Mayoss (GM: Operations) and Roger Overton (Company Engineer).


The Princess Royal presents Nic Cronje with an award

HRH Anne The Princess Royal presented Nic Cronje with an award, in recognation of transportation by Golden Arrow Bus Services during the CITSA Awards evening held at the Alberton Civic Centre on 23 November 1994

Early 1996 - Through rail-bus ticketing
Following arrangements, Metrorail intrduced through ticketing valid on Golden Arrow buses from the Kommetjie/Vredehoek/Ocean View area to Fish Hoek station and on trains from here to Central Cape Town. Combined timetables for the connecting services were issued. This was the first instance of joint collaboration between the two operators in providing a through connecting service- a significant first in that a wholly-goverment-owned entity partnered with a 100% privately-owned company.

Golden Arrow Foundation Board

(Left to right) Back: Duncan Crowie, Moegamat Soeker, Bob Krause, Nokwanda Majola and Esau Majokweni. Front: Matilda Vantura, Adriaan Eksteen, Marlene le Roux and Father Paks Mdunyelwa.

Golden Arrow joined the board of directors of Modalink, a newly-created public-private partnership tasked with promoting public transport in Cape Town.

MEC of Transport and Labour

Plet Meyer and Golden Arrow Chairman, Nic Cronje at the AAD Bus Launch held at Kevin Grove, Newlands on 5 June 1998



The Golden Arrow management team keep watch as staff members embark on Industrial action flowing a deadlock in wage negotiations.

On 15 April 1999, public transport in Cape Town was thrown into disarray when employees of Golden Arrow and other bus operators embarked on a national strike. Regular bus users had to find other ways of getting to work, mostly at increased cost. Traffic congestion worsened and trains were overcrowded. By the time negotiations ended and employees returned to work on 3 May 1999, a trail of destruction was left in the wake of the strikes. Besides financial loss the general public had been greatly inconvenienced. Immediate effects of the strike included the postponement of a R30 million cintract of 38 new buses and the acquisition of a R10 million electronic ticketing project.

Yaasien Abrahams

After Jason retired from the GA board of directors,Yaasien (Abe) Abrahams became the first bus driver to be elected to fill the vacany as the company's staff representative on the board. At the time he was also the chairmain of SATAWU Western Cape, national chairman of passenger section within SATAWO and served on the national provident fund for SATAWU.

Abrahams displayed his leadership skills during taxi violence in 2000 when he and his fellow bus drivers faced danger daily, he said his only concern was the interests of workers.


Hero-driver saves passenger's life

Quick thinking by Ivor Bastiaan, saved the life of a critically-ill elderly passenger. Turning into queen's Park Road in Woodstock, a passenger drew his attention. Ivor stopped the bus, climbed out of the cab and got into the bus to take a closer look. It did not take long to realise that the gentleman's heart had stopped. After he quickly consulted the other passengers on the bus he rushed the bus to Groote Schuur with the headlights blazing and his hand on the horn.

At Groote Schuur, Bastiaan parked the bus and called over nearby doctors to help. After emergency treatment in the bus, George Wulff was admitted to hospital.Ivor only found out afterwards that George was a former driver with City Tramways. Mr Wulff recovered remarkably fast.

The Golden Arrow brand is resurrected
The early 1990s were categorised by uncertainty tempered by a growing sense of optimism. Apartheid was repealed and Nelson Mandela was finally freed. Winds of change was blowing through the country and public transport was no exception. Tollgate Holdings Limited wanted to leave the bus business and numerous attempts to establish some sort of public Transport Authority in collaboration with the Western Cape Regional Services Council had yielded no results.

One option was to sell Tollgate Holdings to City Tramways 927 buses to markets elsewhere in Africa, dispose of the company's 11 depots and retrench some 2,600 employees. Fortunately for them and the 180,000 passengers making use of the service on a daily basis, this was not to be. Cognisant of their responsibility, then the management of Tramways Holdings Limited under the chairmanship of Nic Cronje took a leap of faith and transacted a *management buyout*, and on 1 April 1992 Golden Arrow Bus Services (Pty) Ltd officially came into being.

By once again assuming the Golden Arrow Bus services, the Company sought to combine the values that had come to characterise the Company and its employees with the integrity and reliability assoxiated with the Golden Arrow brand.
1990s The impact of the minibus-taxi industry
The minibus taxi industry has had a significant impact on the country's public transport industry. By the late 1980's, the rush of entrants to what was perceived as a route to rapid wealth resulted in overtrading - too many vehicles in relation to number of passengers offerings. Minibuses that could now achieve 2 trips in peak - perhaps no more than 1 - could hardly hope to be profitable.

The situation brought minibus-taxis into the mainstream of urban transport , running along major bus routes into city centre. Inroads by minibuses meants may minor bus routes become unviable and before long. many smaller towns saw their scheduled bus services disappear altogether. Country towns were no exception.
Early 1990s

Many parts of SA cities loses conventional forms of public transport

By the 1990's, the minibu-taxi incursion into urban transport had resulted in bus and train services being adversely affected and typically stopped running as early as 19h00 or 20h00 and in many places the Sunday service disappeared.

The political environment during the early 1990s was tension-filled, with numerous incidents of general political violence and strike action. Amongst the victims of this action was American Fullbright student, Amy Biehl, who was killed in Gugulethu in 1993- a death that caused an international outcry.


Unions demand safety

At the height of turbulent tide of anti-apartheid township
resistance, Golden Arrow drivers became the targets of militants
in the townships of Cape Town. After 5 drivers lost their lives,
both TOWU and TGWU demanded that the company institute
safety measures. After a 9 week illegal strike the company agreed
to provide bullet-proof vests and adequate life insurance cover.


Violence continues

In January 1994, 4 bus passengers and a driver were injured when they came under fire in Khayelitsha and by March the provision of military escorts for the company's buses was under consideration. In the previous months, no less than 6 Golden Arrow employees had been killed on duty.

1 April 1994 - Golden Arrow Foundation
Golden Arrow 's management altered its shareholding structure in recognition of the community support given to the company during trying times. The new structure saw 50% of shares allocated to the Golden Arrow Foundation (GAF), which was managed by a board of trustees and operated independently as a community-based organisation. The other 50% of shares were owned by Golden Arrown Investment Holdings, whose shareholders consisted of management investment consortium and every employee who worked for the company. Golden Arrow employees could only elect one of their own to serve on the board of directors.
1994 - Employees empowered through Board appointment
A move by management to include its employees at the highest level of decision-making, lead to the opportunity of electing a colleague to the company's board of directors every 2 years. Robert Jason was the first inaugral representative. At the time of election, Robert had 2 decades of service at Golden Arrow.

Robert Jason

"Robert was the first employee elected to serve on the GA Board. In an interview after his election, he said, "Our company has seen many changes and we have come through difficult times, but I really believe that we are entering an exhilarating time, with many new horizons opening up".

In uttering that prophetic statement, Janson could not have imagined the challenges, growth and development Golden Arrow faced the next few years and into the new millennium. He retired at the end of July 2001, after 5 consecutive terms. Jason served one-year terms in 1994, 1995, and 1996. In 1997, the term was extended to 2 years."

Traffic Priority for buses
"Kerbside traffic lanes in Sir Lowry Road/Victoria Road were marked as reserved during peak hours- the west side in the morning, the east in the afternoon. The strategy did not prove very effective, as even one delivery truck stopped at the kerb effectively dislocated the flow of buses and the traffic police were to carry out constant enforcement along the entire length of the road.

In the course of 1994, a third traffic lane was constructed along a portion of N2, between Vanguard Drive and Liesbeeck Park. At the end of 1995, work began on reserving the inbound 3rd lane for public transport during morning peak. The resultant "BMT" (bus and minibus-taxi) lane came in for much critical comment as to why the fast lane had been marked, rather than one of the left. Policing the BMT lane effectively proved very problematic, with an inordinate number of car drivers simply ignoring the signs."

Electronic destination screens

Following extensive experimentation, Multimech electronics specialist Deon Scheepers perfected an LED display activated by bus drivers using a four-digit keyboard. The equipment cost less to manufacture than off-the-shelf LED displays, having the added advantage of being customised to suit Golden Arrow's specific needs. The new screens were fitted systematically to all the buses in the fleet from 1996 onwards.

Online Timetables
In September 1998, another important innovation as Golden Arrow timetables became available on the internet.
September 1999
The new Golden Arrow was finally able to declare its first dividend after the last few years of turmoil. Though R2 million was a modest amount in relation to the replacement value of the fleet (about R500 million), it meant that R1 was handed to the Golden Arrow Foundation which had many deserving causes and projects lined up.

GAF dividend cheque

Left to right: (Back) Karin de Jongh (GA Legal Advisor), Robert Jason (Director), Hannes Grebe (General Manager) Adriaan Eksteen (GAF Trustee) and Jeanne Welsh (PR Manager), (Front) Marlene le Roux (GAF Chairmain), Nic Cronje (GA Chairman) and Esau Majokweni (GAF Trustee) with the milestone dividend cheque.

A praise song to GABS
After the return to Khayelitsha, a commuter delivered the following praise to the company. They wanted to remain anonymous so Golden Arrow was unable to properly thank them, but the English translation is printed in gratitude:

I can't keep quiet
I feel happy

I'm filled with joy
When I see a bus
Going up and down
in the whole of Khayelitsha.

I say forward Golden Arrow
I heard the cry of old men/women
Who could not get their pension offices
I see you helping
verybody, all over.

I saw you carrying those
left behind by their loved ones (death),
Where you take them to
bid farewell to these ones
I saw you carrying those
going to work
I also see you carrying
school children
Most importantly, we
saw you carrying us
To vote for the government
we love most.

Oh, the thing called death,
It does not even see
when good is being done
We say forward Golden Arrow
You, our helper
you will stay our helper.
All over.
Thank you.


people - The Power behind the service

early 2000

"Taxi association and ""taxi wars"""

Groups of taxi owners had formed into associations, but competition for routes became keener leading to skirmishes between rival associations. Each laid claims to routes and territories. *Taxi wars* became common and innocent passengers were caught in the crossfire.

Desperate authorities spent long hours negotiating in bid to broker peace. Cease-fire would be declared, lasting until the war broke out again a month or two later. Thousands of commuters were often left stranded as Golden Arrow buses, dirvers and passengers became targets of a 'hitman' hired by misguided elements in the minibus taxi industry. Many passengers walked long distances before bing able to utilise bus serveices in N2 outside townships.

early 2000

GABS hires private security

With the lack of effective policing the taxi violence in troubled areas, GABS hired a private security firm to protect its drivers and passengers. The attacks on buses continued, however, but seemingly aimed at passengers rather than the drivers.


MAN buses for the new millennium

In 2000 the company acquired 29 new MAN Explorer 66 seater. 3 years later a further 40 were added, despite the lack of any guarantee that work would eventuate for a new vehicles bought in at considerate cost.


Golden Acre Terminus, city centre


Mowbray Terminus


Mowbray Terminus


Model joint Venture formed

In a move to empower historically disadvantaged bus operators and provide them with access to the mainstream passenger transport industry, Sibanye Bus Services (Pty) Ltd was formed in 2001 to operate between Cape Town and Atlantis (46kw) under a subcontracting agreement with Golden Arrow.

Sibanye represented the coming together of 3 partners who, despite diverse backgrounds, share the same vision: to provide safe, accessible, efficient and affordable public transport to the people of Western CApe in general and Cape Metropolitan area in particular.

The 3 partners are: The Western Cape Bus Operatorss Transport Co-operative Limited trading as Siyakhula Bus Services, Golden Arrow Bus Services (pty) Ltd, and Abahlobo Bus Services (Pty) Ltd.


Taking hold of her future

"In 1999, Gloria Mabandla served tea and was responsible for general daily upkeep of the offices in Epping. Her attitude to help wherever she could and her knowledge of the company soon boosted her confidence and birthed her aspirations to become a receptionist. This dream became a reality in 2002, when the learning centre needed a receptionist that could speak and communicate in 3 official languages - Gloria successfully applied for the position.

I was so happy in my new job, because not only was I linked to the outside workd, but I enjoyed dealing with the people and assisting prospective employees"". Today she is the face of the Learning Centre."""


Dynamo behind the wheel of her bus

"Virginia Mohamed's small stature is deceptive, because as soon as she launched herself into the driver's seat behind the wheel of her bus she became a dynamo - a woman who loves to take control of the heavy-duty vehicle and hold her own in the job dominated by men.

I feel that female drivers are more in tune with their passengers and more in control of their tempers: she said in an interview with the company's in-house publication, Gazette in 2004, ""The training I recieved at the Golden Arrow Learning Centre was excellent and, as a driver all that is required is for me to apply it while I am driving""."


Learning Centre

Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool (left) congratulating Robert Prince (Manager, Learning Centre), while Nic Cronje (Chairman) looks on.

Hosken Consolidated Investments takes over
In a watershed moment in the compny's history, the Premier JSE listed Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) investment group, Hosken Consolidated Investements (HCI), acquired 100% of Golden Arrow. The Golden arrow Foundation was absorbed into HCI Foundation, and the HCI Group's impeccable B-BBEE credentials and commitment to the recapitalisation of the company's ageing fleet set the company on a new trajectory in the dynamic road passenger transport sector.

Woman pioneer in the workshops

"In a pioneering move in its history, in 2005 Golden Arrow appointed Dorothy Itumeleng, a qualified diesel mechanic in what is considred a strickly male domian.

After matriculating in 1998, her main objective was to become an engineer. However she changed her mind when she saw a woman fixing an engine of a car; she shared in an interview shortly after her appointment.

Dorothy completed her NTC1, NTC2 and NTC3 at Bloemfontein College, before moving to Hillside College to complete her NTC4 and NTC5. while studying her NTC6 she was offered an apprenticeship at Kumba Resources, an iron ore mine in Kuruman, NC. After 3 years at the mine she qualified as a diesel mechanic.

Her motto in life is to keep studying to empower herself and says, empathetically, I am not an affirmative action appointee. I am here because I am qualified! Women should not be afraid to enter this field because there are lots of opportunities here - it's not always easy, you have to be determined and patient, you should have a strong will because there are times when you are faced with obstacles or tests."""

GABS' first green depot
The most recent commisioned depot and first since the HCI Group took over Golden Arrow, Southgate in Phillipi, opened for operation in December 2008. It received engineering accreditation as being environmentally green building, with all aspects of the design and construction implemented through the use of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient. The depot features energy-saving lighting and motors, solar-powered heating and air-conditioning and draws its electricity supply from the wind powered Darling electricity grid.
GABS launches court order for payment of subsidies
A bombshell for Golden Arrow during 2009 was the declared inability of the Department of Transport to meet its contractual financial obligation due to its subsidy budget being exhausted. Golden Arrow, owed R94.5 million, and was forced to obtain a High Court order, compelling the Department to honour the debt. The High Court ruled in favour of GABS which compelled National Treasury to release outstanding subsidy payment to Golden Arrow
Unite against the infamous taxi wars
Noted as one of the bloodiest periads of Golden Arrow's recent history as 9 drivers were killded in the line of duty. The taxi warlords demanded that the company decrease the number of buses on the roads, and that no buses should operate over the weekends. Both the TOWU and TGWU unions were united in theri opposition to these demands and, though their blockading of the N2 highway, attracting government's attention to the issue. The blockade by bus drivers - which sut off the entrances to Cape Town during the morning rush hour. Remarkably, instead of becoming disgruntled, hundreds of motoriats used their cell phones to call radio stations and newspapers to express their support for the drivers' action, condemning government for reneging on the basic responsibility to protect its citizens.

Capetonians came out in numbers to denounce the attacks on Golden Arrow, its staff and commuters, and to defend the right to choose a mode of public transport. More than 1500 signitures were collected during the support campaign, with hundreds of people sporting an orange rinnon in support of the cause. Government at last got involved, devising a six-point plan that law and order is non-negotiable, that commuters have the right to choose their own mode of transport and that legal transport operators would be allowed to conduct their legitimate business. Unfortunately recurrent troubles would continue from time to time and adversely have effect on the company's expense and staff morale.
March 2000

2000 - Violence disrupt bus service

The Company and commuters watched helplessly as members of various minubus-taxi groups wreaked havoc on bus operations. Thousands of commuters were left stranded when taxi-associations refused to allow buses into Khayelitsha and adjacent township. For many weeks buses had to pick up passengers from the mew Way bridge in the outskirts of Khayelitsha.

Photograph: Cape Argus Archives

29 May 2000

29 May 2000 - Taxi wars

After 4 months of the company negotiating with the taxi associations, and appeals to authorities, buses were still stoned, shot at and petrol bombed. 4 bus drivers and 2 passengers were killed, 14 operational stuff members and more than 40 passengers were injured. There were 60 shootings and 6 fire bombings in total. It was only on 2 August that government took steps to end the violence, by closing Khayelitsha taxi ranks. Several operators were arreted, Sadly even after the government stepped in to try and control the infamous taxi wars, a bus driver was murdered by a hitman posing as a passenger on his bus. Jacobus Swart was killed and his bus petrol bombed.

Photograph: Cape Argus Archives


MAN buses for the new millennium

In 2000 the company acquired 29 new MAN Explorer 66 seater. 3 years later a further 40 were added, despite the lack of any guarantee that work would eventuate for a new vehicles bought in at considerate cost.


Simonstown Depot


Mowbray Terminus


Eastgate Depot in Blackheath

"Commissioned early in June 2001, serving the Delft, Belhar and Blue Dowwns routes as well as Khayelitsha-Bellville. It entered service with 114 buses, 146 drivers, 3 small business unit managers and 57 engineering staff. The main objective was to take pressure off the Arrowgate depot and reduce ""dead"" bus kilometers."


Female driver excels

"In 2001, Alison le Breton (36) was the first female driver to reach the finals of the Golden Arrow Driver of the Year Competition. She was one of 15 finalists who undertook the tough final stage manoeuvering test and made it to the top 10.

Le Breton joined the Company in 1992. In 2001 Alison was 1 of the only 7 female bus drivers out of the total 961 drivers. The Gazette at the time reported that her passengers and colleagues praised her for her excellent driving and outstanding people skills, and stated that whenever she heard the invitable ""you drive well for a woman"" from many of her male passenger, she was quick to quip: ""Rather just tell me I drive very well""."


Innovative move to recruit woman drivers!

"After its first decade of operations, Golden Arrow embarked on a makor drive to diversify its workforce further in terms of gender equality. Considered by many to be a ""man's job"" the 45 drivers employed by the company in 2002 disproved this archaic myth on a daily basis with a recruitment campaign targeting women specifically.

In the past, women drivers proved their mettle in a traditional male-dominated domain, the move proved to be the right one. The first 19 of a new intake of female trainees graduated as bus drivers at Golden Arrow's Learning Centre in Woodstock early in 2002, with a further 6 graduating shortly thereafter. The woman successfully completed the 13-weeks training course and were deployed to the various depots a part of the company's team of drivers.

Here Nomaindia Mfeketo (Public affairs Director) with the first group of female trainees to graduate as bus drivers."

The Learning and Assessment Centre
GABS opened the doors to the multi-million rand, accredited Golden Arrow Learning and Assessment Centre in 2003 to provide training and development initiatives in the road transport industry received a much-needed boost. The centre makes significant contributions towards skills development and job creation in the province. The large number of people trained, within a short period of time, demonstrates the centre's capacity and commitment to training and development excellence.

In 2003 Golden Arrow added a 12-month leadership programme for drivers to its range of training courses. The programme includes learner orientation, support and mentoring from GABS' most experienced drivers. The inaugural mentors were recommended by the area managers, and selected according to their years of experience, excellent records and perfomance within the company.

Apprentice Programme

Golden Arrow is proud of its longstanding Apprentice Programme, which cater for training of apprentice employees in a variety of trades associated with the transport industry. The system has ensured the supply of skills and continues to meet the specialized labour demands of the company and industry.


The first GABS Board after the HCI acquisition.

(Left to right-back) Barry Gie (Executive Director), Karin de
Jongh (legal advisor), Mark Wilkins (Financial Director) and
Virginia Engel (Non-Executive Director), (Left to right-front)
Marcel Golding (Vice Chairman),
Elias Mphande (Chairman)
and Nic Cronje (Chief Executive Officer).


Health and welfare of staff

Healthy staff members are likely to be more productive, which is why the company places so much emphasis on the well-being of employees. Employees are encouraged to participate in a range of the company's sporting activities, including a soccer team, which both boost physical health and foster team spirit.


Dedicated to extending her healing hand

"Sister Corinne Collins joined Golden Arrow on March 1999, with a caring and healing touch that is an integral part of taking care of the company's employees. For more than a decade, Sister Collins has protected the well-being of the staff by ensuring that the onsite services offered are in touch with their needs.

Her background at Durbanville Private Hospital, 10 years in Casualty at Groote Schuur Hospital, a 3 year General Nursing diploma through Groote Schuur and midwifery and occupational health diplomas from Stellenbosch University was exactly the right foundation she needed to meet the needs of the Golden Arrow employees as their 'mini-doctor"", according to Sr Collins.

Monitoring blood pressure and sugar levels, taking blood samples, changing dressings, treating colds and dizziness and dispensing medication are just some tasks that make up my day""."

Grassroots outing

Learners from Sonderend Primary, Glen Carlou, enjoy a Grassroots Adventure bus outing to the beach.

Customer Services
Contact Us
Toll-free number:
0800 65 64 63
General Enquiries:
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay updated with the latest developments.