/ 27 February 2009

Taxi council cries foul over bus-rapid transit system

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) wants to ”reopen” the taxi industry in place of the bus-rapid transit (BRT) system, SABC radio news reported on Thursday.

This formed part of a counter-proposal to the establishment of the BRT system.

The taxi body refuted a statement by Transport Minister Jeff Radebe that the taxi body had signed an agreement with government in support of the BRT system.

Santaco first deputy president Mthuthuzeli Molefe said: ”We are given only the operational part of BRT. The other value chain — government is saying nothing about it.

”Whether it is an agenda for government officials and consultants and other companies to benefit out of that, we don’t know,” he told the broadcaster.

”But we are tired as an industry of being given the tail and the rest of the carcass is taken by other people. Of any project that has got to do with the taxi industry, for instance recap, it was the same thing,” Molefe said.

Department of Transport spokesperson Collen Msibi said the taxi body misunderstood the statement by Radebe.

”It is not that he indicated that the national government had signed. He had clearly said at Asikhulume that the agreement that he heard about was the one between the municipality and the taxi industry in Port Elizabeth,” Msibi told the broadcaster.

”Those are the details you need to get as to exactly what was signed but the minister quite clearly indicated that he heard that there was an agreement signed. We are trying to get the details,” he said.

The aim of the BRT is to rejuvenate Johannesburg’s ailing transport network and, in part, address the congestion and chaos in the city. Using designated lanes BRT vehicles will operate over 40km by June this year and by 2013 the full 330km network is expected to be functioning.

Much of the infrastructure is ready for the roll-out of phase 1A (in BRT lingo). But the most challenging task facing the BRT has been incorporating taxi and bus operators into the system.

The designated BRT expressways will run on taxi and bus operator territory, causing much consternation among this largely informal and notoriously volatile sector.

The intention, according to Bob Stanway, executive director of transportation for the City of Johannesburg, is for all affected operators to be included in the BRT.

Existing and affected taxi and bus operators are to become shareholders in the companies that will eventually operate the BRT on behalf of the city. The idea is for them to form new operating companies, based on market share, which enter into long-term contracts with the city.

While talks between Jo’burg’s taxi leaders and the city continue, the industry has not officially agreed to incorporation in the BRT. With three months to go before roll-out in June, the pressure is mounting. — Sapa