Johannesburg - It's official, the Rea Vaya buses will hit the streets of Johannesburg on Monday morning.
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele launched the much-talked about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system on Sunday, much to the delight of the locals who came to witness this milestone in the history of public transport in South Africa.
On Friday, the North Gauteng High Court gave government the go ahead to launch the BRT after an application by the United Taxi Association Forum to halt the process was dismissed.
Johannesburg became the first city to launch this mode of transport system expected to be rolled out to other major metropolitan areas around the country.
The high floor colourful buses will run from Regina Mundi in Soweto all the way to Ellis Park. Commuters will be able to embark and disembark at closed, raised stations with level boarding every half a kilometre to three quarters of a kilometer.
Several streets around the city centre had been closed while a heavy police presence can be seen around the area where the launch is being held.
Minister Ndebele was confident that the launch would go smoothly without any disruptions. There were fears early in the week that disgruntled taxi operators may attempt to disrupt the launch.
"The fact that the taxi industry decided to take their concerns to court shows that they are committed to resolve issues legally.
"They can be assured that they will not get some stake in the project, they will get a stake," Minister Ndebele said.
More than 90 taxi drivers had been trained so far to drive the Rea Vaya buses and the number is expected to grow as the number of routes increased.
Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo described this day as a historic day for both the city and South Africa.
"When we took a decision to embark on this in 2006, we knew it would not be an easy ride, but we knew we were taking the right decision," Mayor Masondo said.
He said the BRT was a victory for the transport industry, the people of South Africa and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said the BRT was the beginning of bigger things to happen in South Africa's transport.
"We want to commend the City of Johannesburg; this has not been an easy initiative," she said. - BuaNews