Johannesburg - Delays in the implementation of Joburg’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system’s phase 1b could leave the city with a multimillion-rand headache.
The city’s roll-out of phase 1b of the Rea Vaya BRT has been delayed until at least June, pending negotiations with the taxi industry and several bus companies, who are expected to form a bus-operating company to run the system.
But the city has spent about R1 billion on dedicated infrastructure, including 18.5km of dedicated trunk routes and 15 additional stations that have stood idle for more than a year.
The city’s executive acquisition committee has adjudicated the tender for the buses to be used for the phase and an announcement on the successful bidder will be made soon.
In 2009 delays in the implementation of the system saw the city pay R391 million to manufacturers of a number of buses pre-ordered for the start of the BRT.
The BRT system is intended to incorporate taxi owners and bus operators working on the routes from Noordgesig through New Canada, along Kingsway Avenue and Empire Road to Braamfontein, earmarked for the system.
But public transport expert Dr Vaughn Mostert said delays in the implementation of Rea Vaya phase 1b would have financial implications that ran into millions of rand.
“Further phases of the BRT will be sub-optimal and not good value for money.
“With the problems they had with negotiating phase 1a, one would expect that they would have done some project management of the issues going into this before building the stations.”
Mostert said with the infrastructure put in place, but standing idle, there were bound to be financial implications for the city.
“We should be fixing the existing Metrobus, which has been cutting down on trips every year, with the money as an immediate need. Unless we fix the bus system, we will be stuck in this similar situation until 2043.”
The city said it had been in a talks, chaired by an independent facilitator, with the taxi industry regarding phase 1b in December.
“The negotiation process is anticipated to take approximately six months,” said Tebogo Mogashoa, spokesman for MMC for Transport Rehana Moosajee.
“A decision had been taken by the City of Johannesburg to maximise local content and job creation in procurement of buses for phase 1b, even if it meant operationalising later.”
Mogashoa said phase 1b involved minibus taxi and bus operators, and this created additional complexities in the talks process.
Independent transport expert Paul Browning said the city had to be applauded for their “enthusiasm” for the BRT.
“If you have infrastructure that is built and not used for almost two years, then, obviously, there will be financial implications.”