TAXI operators' rejection of the Bus Rapid Transit system will not stop the government's plans to transform transport in the country, Gauteng department of community safety said yesterday.
"It is regrettable that the taxi organisations have rejected the government offer with regards to BRT," said a statement issued by the department's Thapelo Moiloa.
"The September deadline will not be revisited unless there are infrastructural challenges. We remain committed to the project, and test runs are key and will not be interrupted," Moiloa said.
The government and taxi operators have been at loggerheads over the introduction of the BRT, that was supposed to have been implemented in June but has since been set back to September.
Taxi drivers were to be trained as bus drivers and taxis would be removed from the BRT routes, becoming part of a feeder system instead.
The taxi industry was enraged, saying the government was muscling it out of routes it had developed over the years.
President of the South African National Taxi Council Andrew Mthembu wrote on the council's website: "The taxi industry has been the de facto BRT for decades purely on the basis of its convenience, frequency, reliability and efficiency to mention a few, and it would consequently be logical to award Santaco the first right of refusal, not only on BRT but on the entire public transport initiatives.
"... the taxi industry continues to be a serious poverty alleviation player providing over 200000 jobs, yet it is defined as a second economy although hugely acting as a support system for the first economy with influence on billions to the insurance, petroleum, manufacturing and retail stores, so it cannot be a business blunder and government will not regret it were it to surrender BRT to the taxi industry and take (a) regulatory role." - Sapa