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Johannesburg - Joburg’s Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system is the most advanced in South Africa and is to be extended to other cities in the country.
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, speaking at the launch of Phase 1B of the Rea Vaya, said the rapid transit route had been instrumental in linking many of the city’s urban nodes.
The new route makes it easier to access many hospitals, such as Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic, as well as private clinics such as Life Brenthurst and Netcare Parklane.
The route runs close to educational institutions such as the Doornfontein, Bunting Road, Kingsway and Soweto campuses of the University of Johannesburg, Wits University, Milpark College, John Orr College, Parktown Boys’ High, Randpark High, Helpmekaar Hoërskool and the National School of Arts.
The bus project, said Patel, was part of the government’s R4.3 trillion infrastructure plan announced last year, which is intended to reshape the country.
It was the single, biggest intervention in infrastructure development in the past 40 years, he said.
The fact that the buses were being manufactured in South Africa instead of being imported from Brazil, as in the past, was contributing to industrialisation and jobs.
“We have assembled 9 000 buses locally in the past 12 months, which is the equivalent of 40 percent of all required buses, and the aim is to increase this to 70 percent by 2015,” Patel said.
City of Joburg member of the mayoral committee for transport Christine Walters said Rea Vaya was part of Joburg’s R100 billion infrastructure investment programme over the next 10 years.
“The introduction of Rea Vaya is more than a public transport project, it is a significant contributor to job creation,” she said.
About 9 300 jobs were created during construction; 120 people, mainly from surrounding local communities, will be employed at the 13 new stations; and, when fully operational, about 300 jobs will have been created in the operating company.
This is made up of former taxi drivers who were affected by the new bus service as well as former Putco bus drivers.
“The mayoral committee deliberately decided to delay the procurement of buses to ensure that local content could be used,” Walters added.
Other good news announced on Monday was that fares have dropped by 10 percent for off-peak users between 9am and 3pm.
Several improvements have been made to the new buses, including a self-operated lift for people with disabilities; flaps to close the gap when docking at the stations to improve safety; racks for storage of shoppers’ parcels; and heaters for winter.
At the stations there are now bike storage racks, dustbins, and seating near the stations, as well as landscaping.
“The new bus routes will be an important support for Joburg’s master plan to transform apartheid settlement patterns and create a vibrant, middle-class environment where everyone can feel safe,” Patel said.