Durban - WHILE the deadline to the launch of the long-awaited GO!Durban transport network project has been pushed back to early next year, taxi operators have remained resolute that the multi-million-rand project will not be launched without their buy-in.
The deadline for the launch has been pushed back to February next year.
Bethuel Manthoadi, senior official in the eThekwini Transport Authority (ETA), unit revealed this while giving an update on the plans to launch the project last week.
This is a change from the directive given by mayor Mxolisi Kaunda a few months ago that the project should be live before the end of this year.
The launch of GO!Durban’s first route C3 – between KwaMashu and Pinetown – was expected to launch in November last year, after it missed the July deadline because of a dispute with taxi operators.
Speaking on the City online communication platform, eThekwini Matters, Manthoadi said: “Within the next weeks and months, there are few activities that are going to be happening in ramping up towards the go-live for GO!Durban.”
He said the project had long been delayed and the City had to change tactics in order to move the project forward.
Taxi operators that are going to be displaced have raised concerns about the loss of business they have suffered and would continue to lose as a result of the project going live.
A stalemate emerged over the ownership of the buses for the project.
The City purchased buses to operate on the route and wanted to have a controlling interest, while the taxi operators felt that they should hold a majority stake.
As part of the change of tactics to break the stalemate and allow the project to move forward, the City said when the project went live taxi operators would be allowed to continue operating on that route, and not give up their licences while the negotiations continued.
The senior ETA official said there were negotiations with the public transport operators to ensure they were not worse off than they were before the launch of the project, adding that the project would affect these operators.
“By October 31, 2023 we hope that our feeder services will be up and running. The feeder services will be feeding your commuters to the trunk which is your GO!Durban facility.
“Following that will be the commissioning of the C3 route, the one from Pinetown to Bridge City. The infrastructure is there but we need to do some commissioning that is required to make sure the system functions properly and on that we are looking at going live around February 2024.
“It is important to note that these are plans and our hope is that as we plan and ramp up, it should make it easier to make that date. Those are the tight deadlines that we have given ourselves, given that we have wanted to be operational for so long and that has not yet happened,” he said.
Mathula Mkhize, spokesperson for the South African National Taxi Council in the Durban West region (where part of the C3 route is located), said as far as they were concerned, the dates were meaningless.
“We have not been briefed on anything, there has been no public consultation with us, either on the changes that have been proposed or on the dates.”
He said if there was any launch, it might be in the other regions, “but there is nothing that is going to be happening in the west”.