Johannesburg — The City of Johannesburg has said it will go ahead with the rollout of its Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system on 30 August, despite the threat of a strike by taxi bosses.
The United Taxi Association Forum (UTAF), a body representing at least 31 taxi associations, has threatened to embark on a mass protest the day before the official launch of the BRT. This has received support from the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO).
They have accused government of not consulting with them enough over the system's implementation. The forum has said it will head to court in a bid to stop the BRT from going ahead.
"We must always remember the need to serve the interests of commuters. Rea Vaya will go on. Our citizens want Rea Vaya to start operating and we have the opportunity to raise the bar and give them what they deserve," said Rehana Moosajee, the City of Johannesburg's MMC for Transportation.
Refuting claims that the taxi operators had not been consulted enough, Ms Moosajee said the city had been engaging with the taxi industry since 2006.
When the Transport Ministry announced in June this year to create a National Joint Working Group to deal with a variety of issues in the taxi industry, they also indicated negotiations with stakeholders in the cities implementing BRT should go ahead.
She explained that the city had done this and continued with its negotiation process with the taxi operators. "Affected operators from nine out of the 10 affected associations were present at the first day of negotiations," said Ms Moosajee.
She further said that city Mayor Amos Masondohad said that his door remains open for all those who wish to become part of this important process. However, Ms Moosajee said the municipality would be taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of Rea Vaya passengers if the protest action were to go ahead.
The BRT system's main routes will see specialised buses run in dedicated lanes, stopping at specially designed stations, located roughly every 750m along the route.
The services expected to kick off on 30 August will run from Lakeview station, in Soweto, to Ellis Park station, also offering an inner-city complementary service. It will operate in two shifts, with limited off-peak services.
The full phase 1A, to be implemented by January 2010, will use expanded trunk and feeder routes, offering a three-shift operation with a three- to five-minute frequency during peak times, and 20 minutes during off-peak periods.