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Durban - Expect major traffic jams in Durban over the next two years. But the eThekwini Municipality said the short-term pain will be replaced by long-term gain as it unveiled a multibillion-rand transport strategy aimed at reaching 85 percent of Durban residents.
Unveiled at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Friday were plans to offer Durban commuters a R22 billion integrated transport system that would use taxis, buses and trains at a cheaper rate than existing modes of transportation.
But to achieve this, the city will have to increase the number of lanes on many routes.
The first areas to benefit from the integrated rapid public transport network will be Pinetown, Umhlanga, Isipingo, Umlazi and KwaMashu.
The city would foot R20bn of the bill, while the Passenger Rail Agency of SA would cover the rest, said eThekwini Transport Authority head Thami Manyathi.
Half of the budget will go towards phase one which is expected to be completed by 2016.
The city expects more than 700 000 commuters daily to use the various modes of transportation when the four-phase project is completed.
The long-awaited system, branded as “Go Durban!”, is part of the city’s plans to provide an integrated, safe, accessible, affordable and efficient public transport network to reduce road traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
The system aims to provide affordable and accessible transport to eThekwini residents, by not only connecting different areas around the city, but by providing transport to areas previously not serviced.
The programme, which will see nine transport corridors linked by various modes of transport, includes the design of railway stations, park and ride facilities, improved lighting, signage, landscaping, and street furniture.
Mayor James Nxumalo said the long-awaited dream of every Durban citizen would finally be realised in 2016 when the first phase of the project is up and running.
He said the city was the first in the country to roll out a plan that incorporates all modes of transport into a unified network – from pedestrians and cyclists, to taxis, buses and trains.
Nxumalo said the new transport strategy would operate 24 hours a day, at intervals of 10 to 30 minutes. All transport stops and stations would have wheelchair and special needs access.
It also aims to deliver safe and secure operations monitored by a control centre, electronic integrated fare management system integrated feeder services, non-motorised transport, including walking, cycling and hiking networks.
The system will be integrated with metered taxi and long distance intercity services.
“Imagine leaving your home in KwaMashu, Umhlanga, Hammarsdale, Pinetown, Isipingo or Umlazi and arriving at your destination more quickly, more safely and more relaxed than you ever thought possible,” said Nxumalo.
“Imagine paying for your journey, whether by taxi, bus or train – or a combination of all three – with a single convenient, cashless payment system.
“Imagine car owners leaving their vehicles at secure park-and-ride facilities close to home and travelling to work on public transport that arrives regularly and on time.”
Key elements to ensuring that the system would run smoothly, like dedicated public transport lanes, the Muvo smart-card ticketing system, and the growing network of cycle lanes and pedestrian walking routes were already in place and functioning well, he said.
DA eThekwini caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango said the project was long overdue, but questioned why government-linked taxi association Santaco was the main association that would benefit most from it. “As always, the same individuals will be the one getting the biggest piece of pie.”
Minority Front executive committee member Patrick Pillay also welcomed the project, saying it would alleviate traffic congestion.
Andrew Layman, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chief executive, applauded the project, saying the city had planned it well to avoid the problems experienced in other major cities. “It will transform the city and the daily movement of people.”
The big challenge, said Layman would be to sell the project to commuters.
Speaking at the launch Transport MEC Willies Mchunu congratulated the city, saying the benefits of the system would extend beyond the borders of eThekwini. “When Durban prospers, so does the rest of the province.”
Independent on Saturday