Govt to fast-track BRT negotiation process

Friday, September 4, 2009

Midrand - Government is committed to fast-track the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system negotiation process with the taxi industry.

"The local negotiation process will continue. The city of Johannesburg will be assisted to resolve issues around representation on the part of the taxi industry so that negotiations at local level can be fast-tracked," said Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele on Friday.

This followed a National Joint Working Group (NJWG) meeting with the taxi industry and civil society in Pretoria on Thursday.

Rea Vaya busses began operating in Soweto and Johannesburg on Monday, amid a heavy police presence.

The minister said the meeting resolved that the BRT sub-committee of the NJWG will move speedily to develop a national BRT framework, which will spell out clearly the role of the taxi industry in BRT projects.

"Such a framework will guide negotiations in all other BRT-implementing cities through lessons learnt from the City of Johannesburg," the minister said.

He said the meeting further agreed on the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding that includes reviews of the national BRT plan, business models for taxi operators and intensified negotiations, which would be adopted soon.

"A broader NJWG meeting will consider and adopt the Memorandum of Agreement at a meeting to be held in two weeks time," the minister said.

The minister also reassured the public that the taxi industry had agreed not to resort to violence.

This, following an incident in which two BRT buses were shot at on Tuesday night. One person and a police officer were wounded when occupants of a minibus taxi apparently opened fire on the buses just after 7pm.

"All stakeholders pledged their commitment to the NJWG process and agreed to resolve issues through negotiation and not through violence, intimidation or threats," he said.

Following the incident, the minister said, he has been assured by Police Commissioner Bheki Cele that the South African Police Services are working around the clock to insure that those responsible are brought to book.

"Such attacks cannot be allowed to continue. Everything we do must benefit the commuter. The BRT is not about government or the taxi industry, it's about the commuter," the minister said, adding that the department aimed to extend the 16 operating hours of the buses to 24-hours.