R3bn GO!Durban project hits a snag as city locks horns with taxi owners
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Durban - A visibly complete new route, for GO!Durban, integrated rapid bus system has certainly enhanced the landscape of Pinetown CBD, but it remains a pipe dream as the eThekwini municipality locked horns with taxi owners over its operation.
The first phase of the project, known as C3, which runs from Pinetown to KwaMashu’s Bridge City Mall has, so far, cost taxpayers over R3 billion.
The municipality planned to start the new bus system in September last year, however, a year later and it has gone nowhere.
Taxi owners have repeatedly maintained that they would not let the project begin until their demands were met.
Seemingly, little or no progress has been made by both parties to resolve the impasse.
Mathula Mkhize, secretary of eThekwini Metro Taxi Council said no progress or engagements was made for over a year since they presented their demand proposal to the city.
He said they were waiting for the response about their demand to find the way forward.
Mkhize said there were over a thousand taxis from the Durban west region who would be directly affected by the introduction of the buses - a million rand compensation per taxi was worthy based on the market value, he said.
He said they conducted impact analysis and they were also considering other options available to reach consensus with all stakeholders.
“We met with the city and the National Treasury last year where we presented our demands. We have not heard from them since. Maybe they did not like our proposal, we do not know. But they haven’t made any effort to resolve the issues.
“The roads and other infrastructure have been completed from the construction aspect, I suggest they (the city) should let people use it for jogging or exercising because no buses will use the system until the issues are resolved,” he said.
Mkhize said as time goes by, their demands were also accumulating given the economic conditions. He said in other cities where the bus rapid system was introduced, taxi owners were compensated, adding they believed that they too should benefit.
Durban was not the only city facing challenges with the introduction of the integrated bus rapid system. Msunduzi municipality in Pietermaritzburg and Rustenburg local municipality were among others experiencing problems with the rapid bus system which has caught the attention of the national transport minister.
In July Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, visited the construction site of the Go Durban in Pinetown for inspection and said he was satisfied with the progress made.
Kaunda said the city would continue with the construction of other phases despite the challenges.
However, Mkhize warned that they would ground the construction to halt if the municipality continued to ignore their demands.
Msawakhe Mayisela, city spokesperson said the negotiations regarding compensation were affected by the lack of technical support for the minibus/taxi industry, which has now been addressed.
“What has been agreed to at the moment is a principle, which will be applied, when determining the compensation to be paid to affected operators.
“The final amounts will be determined once the negotiations resume.
“There are currently no disputes with the taxi associations in the western part of the city, with the exception of stalled negotiations, which will soon resume once the appointment of the technical support team for the minibus-taxi industry has been finalised.
The city is busy with processes to resume the negotiations to conclude the bus contracts and compensation. Accordingly, once a revised plan is finalised with the operators, a go live date will be communicated.