'New bus system will be ready on time'

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

Bob Stanway, the man behind the Rea Vaya Rapid Bus Transit (BRT) system is adamant that the first bus for the new transport system in South Africa will hit Johannesburg's roads on time.

BRT is scheduled to start in mid-May next year, in time for the Confederations Cup in June.

Speaking to SowetanStanway, the city council's project manager for BRT, conceded that the main challenge was to convince existing public transport operators, suchas taxi owners, to come on board.

As part of the continuing efforts to convince taxi operators in Johannesburg that BRT would benefit them, the City of Johannesburg, spearheading the project, has formed the BRT Steering Committee, to afford taxi owners an opportunity to raise their concerns.

Stanway's office has, since the start of the negotiations in April last year, held workshops with 18 taxi associations willing to find out more about BRT. There are about 150 taxi associations operating from central Johannesburg and surrounding areas.

Stanway is adamant the 40km Phase 1A of the BRT, with 48 stations, will be completed by May and be ready to transport soccer fans attending the 2010 preliminary tournament next year.

"Phase 1 is in three stages. There'll be phase 1A, phase 1B and full phase 1. We will complete phase 1B before the start of the 2010 World Cup in June and the full phase 1 will be done by 2013.

"The middle lanes of BRT tracks along Pat Mbatha Freeway are already done. We only have to instal stations, which are built off-site, and will be brought in for installation once completed," Stanway said.

He said the Pat Mbatha Freeway, within the Soweto Freeway that links Soweto and the Johannesburg city centre, will have two stations. The BRT track on the freeway is 4,5km.

"Phase 1A will have 150 buses and the full initial phase will have 1200 buses. There will be no tendering process because we want to work with people who are already in the transport industry. They have operating licences which give them the full right to operate.

"There are already two bus companies operating within the Johannesburg area (Metro and Putco buses). Other companies would be from the taxi industry. Taxi people will have to form companies and buy buses that will serve as feeders for the main buses. Taxis will still be feeders for the main buses," Stanway said.

He said there would be three types of buses - a 90-seater that will travel on the exclusive median lane or trunk route, a 65-seater that will travel both on the trunk and normal road, and a 35-seater which will be restricted to the normal road. He said it was the responsibility of the taxi industry to convince those resisting BRT to show them its benefits.

The taxi industry has said one of the reasons they had not bought into the idea was that they had not seen the business plan.

Stanway said: "The business plan is ready. We will reveal it to them when the time is right. I am sure they will accept it."

BRT would not stop taxis operating as they do at present.

"There will still be taxis taking people from the townships to Johannesburg. We are not changing the routes," he said.