Its bumper to bumper traffic on the R27 into Cape Town while the IRT lane stands unused.

CLAYTON BARNES

Staff Writer

THE CITY of Cape Town says it cannot guarantee that the first phase of the multi-billion-rand Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) system will be launched next month.

The city’s admission is the latest in a string of delays to hit West Coast commuters keen to escape congestion on the busy corridor between Blaauwberg and the city centre. Commuters travelling into the city from Atlantis will have to wait even longer before the IRT service reaches them.

Last month – after three delays – the city announced that the IRT service would be launched next month, and that it was well on its way towards having all operator agreements for the interim service in place by mid-April.

This week Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said he could not give residents any guarantees that the system would be launched next month.

Plato said the delays were not the city’s fault, but were a result of “side issues”.

He said with a project of this magnitude, delays were not abnormal.

“It is difficult to say when it will be launched, but politically we are driving the process,” said Plato.

“The people of Atlantis and Blaauwberg are waiting for this service. It’s a complex issue because of all the negotiations, but we are doing our best.”

Initially, the city said that the service would be up and running with the airport shuttle in time for last year’s World Cup. Shortly before the tournament, it announced that the launch would be delayed to October last year.

City spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said the city was “working towards a targeted launch date of early May”, but that the city was reluctant to commit to a date.

She said negotiations with IRT roleplayers had also still not been concluded and that two “highly skilled negotiators” had been appointed to negotiate a deal with the taxi industry and bus companies involved.

“Negotiations with existing industry role players and project contractors have been complex and lengthy and have taken longer than anticipated,” said Hatton.

“The city is working around the clock to finalise the negotiations as soon as is possible.”

According to the city’s IRT business plan, eight taxi associations and two bus companies are involved in negotiations, and the value of their contracts would be determined, among other things, based on their relative share of the existing market.

Existing operators can choose to become part of the MyCiTi service, or to be compensated for the business they will lose when the MyCiTi service starts.

The route operators consist of the affected bus and mini-bus taxi organisations operating on the route, said Hatton.

“The formal appointment of operators can only be processed once negotiations are completed,” she said.

Elizabeth Thompson, the city’s mayoral committee member for transport and major projects, said if negotiations were concluded by today, the buses might be ready to start running on May 9.

But taxi bosses are furious, insisting that they have not been properly consulted.

Western Cape National Taxi Alliance spokesman Mvuyisi Mente said it was “unfortunate” that the taxi industry had not been consulted.

“They are only speaking to certain individuals in the industry,” said Mente. “We have been excluded. There has been no consultation.”

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