Construction on the much-vaunted Go! Durban project ground to a halt after contractors downed tools in May. Nqobile Mbonambi

This year was supposed to be a milestone for the city’s multibillion-rand transport project, Go! Durban, but it suffered major snags as the eThekwini Municipality Transport Authority (ETA) and taxi associations feud continues.

The city had hoped that by the end of this year the first phase of the project, known as the C3 route, stretching from Pinetown to KwaMashu’s Bridge City, would go live.

However, contractors downed tools in May.

Until now, no progress has been made and it is not clear when the construction will resume.

Members of the Pinetown Taxi Association (PTA) allegedly threatened the contractors and asked them to leave the site because the city had failed to honour its promise.

They claimed that the ETA had promised to compensate them, saying their businesses were affected by the construction.

The also demanded to be given a stake in the construction.

Instead, the city decided to take some taxi owners on a trip to South America to show them how integrated rapid transport works and how it would benefit the industry.

The trip, which was said to have cost more than R2million, took place late last month.

It involved taxi and bus owners from various regions and a delegation from the ETA .

However, some taxi owners said the trip was not a solution to the Go! Durban project issues they faced.

Bheki Mbambo, chairperson of the PTA, maintained that it would not allow the construction to resume until all their issues were resolved.

“Only three of our members were part of the trip and were not told about the purpose of it,” Mbambo said.

“We will be having a meeting next week to see if the trip addressed our challenges.

“We have said before that going on a trip while we have differences doesn’t help us or the municipality. This was more like a holiday and this money should have been spent towards finding solutions.

“We are now seen as enemies or obstructors who don’t want development, but this is the only job we have. We have families to support and we will do all in our power to protect our jobs.”

A member of the bus owners association who was part of the trip said they spent seven days in Brazil. They were stopped in Sao Paulo because they did not have visas to fly to Colombia.

“Although we had some difficulties during the trip we learnt a lot about this new system,” he said.

“It is a brilliant system but we told the officials that the ongoing issues with owners from the taxi industry need to be resolved urgently to ensure the project runs smoothly.”

Head of ETA Thami Manyathi, when approached for comment, would not provide further information about the trip or say when construction would resume.

“The ETA is preparing a report for the council that will outline the learnings from the South American Bus Rapid Transit study tour that was recently attended by city officials and representatives of the minibus taxi and bus industries.

“The report will include feedback from both industries about their learnings. A media release containing the facts of the report will be issued once the report has been tabled at a council meeting,” he said.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE