Bold road plan had better work

Johannesburg yesterday unveiled a bold but controversial plan to revolutionise transport in the city, the economic hub of the country.

Johannesburg yesterday unveiled a bold but controversial plan to revolutionise transport in the city, the economic hub of the country.

But the effort is as likely to lead to gridlock throughout the city - at least initially.

It will allocate one lane in each direction on many of the city's already clogged main arteries to new high-capacity buses.

"We are trying to help those who cannot afford to buy cars and survive on public transport, so if private motorists feel inconvenienced the buses will be available," said Rihana Moosagee, a member of the mayoral committee for transportation.

This centrally planned type of public transport is the holy grail of engineers who believe that inefficient fossil-fuelled cars ferrying limited passengers are unsustainable in the 21st century.

Too true.

But sprawling Johannesburg was not designed for efficiency. Those lucky enough to afford cars, among them the beneficiaries of economic transformation, are spending hundreds of millions each year to escape the inefficiencies of public transport.

It remains to be seen whether the new system will succeed in weaning them off their cars and also cater relatively efficiently for the mass of workers who toil away at regular destinations. The experiment dare not fail if the country is ever to have faith in public transport.

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