Jo'burg mum on progress of bus rapid transit system

Uncertainty surrounds the progress of Johannesburg’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, with a City of Johannesburg spokesperson unable to give comment on the new transport infrastructure.

The system hit the skids last month when angry taxi drivers went on strike and insisted on having the president of the African National Congress (ANC) Jacob Zuma attend to their grievances on how the BRT is run.

Zuma then negotiated with the taxi drivers, saying that the BRT system would “hold its horses for now”.

The BRT, which will link the biggest township in Johannesburg—Soweto—to the busy northern suburbs, is designed to ferry commuters around Johannesburg quickly and safely through 150 stations.

According to earlier reports, the first phase (which should be ready in time for the kick-off of the Confederations Cup on June 14 2009) will comprise 40km and 48 stations extending from Regina Mundi in Soweto to Sandton.

Whether the project will actually be ready, however, cannot be confirmed.

The City of Johannesburg is not allowed to comment on Zuma’s proposal to taxi drivers (that the BRT system would “hold its horses for now”).

“The city cannot comment on that, we have referred the issue to the national department of transport and the ANC,” said City of Johannesburg’s transport department head Rehana Mosajee.

“What the taxi guys want is for the consolidation of grassroots partners to the BRT,” said department of transport spokesperson Collin Msibi.

“There was an initial agreement between the [taxi] association leaders and the government but the grassroots guys were not happy with the terms of that agreement,” he said adding that the negotiations between the department and taxi drivers would proceed as soon as the new government was in place.

“Infrastructural proceedings are going ahead as planned but the operational issues are still to be discussed with the taxi partners as soon as the new government comes into power.”

Philip Taaibosch, the secretary general of South African National Taxi Council, said that the association had no problem with infrastructural development on the BRT, but they are still waiting for a response from government.

“We don’t want anyone to think and decide for us, we want to get to a point where we put on the table what we think is best for all parties concerned because this really affects us,” he said, adding that drivers don’t believe that they are role-players in the implementation of this multibillion-rand project.

“We have operated and marketed these routes for donkey’s years; we should be co-owners in this project.”

The second part of the first phase will be implemented in 2010 and should be ready for the World Cup. It will comprise 86km and 102 stations, from Dobsonville in Soweto, through Parktown to Rivonia in the north of Johannesburg.

The first phase will cost R2-billion, with most of the funding coming from the national Public Transport Infrastructure and Systems Fund.

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