Speech by Minister of Transport Sibusiso Ndebele at the official launch of the BRT / Rea Vaya System

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Programme Director - City of Johannesburg MMC Rehana Moosajee;
Minister of Higher Education - Mr. Blade Nzimande;
Deputy Minister of Transport - Mr. Jeremy Cronin;
Premier of Gauteng - the Honourable Ms. Nomvula Mokonyane;
Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport - the Honourable Mr. Bheki Nkosi;
Executive Mayor of Johannesburg - Your Worship Cllr. Amos
Masondo;
Members of the Provincial Legislature;
Other Mayors and Councillors Present;
Other Members of the Transport Family;
Members of the Media;
Distinguished Guests,

The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system we are launching today is not just about public transport! The Bus Rapid Transit system is not just about buses! Indeed, the Bus Rapid Transit system is not merely about taxis or government!

Ladies and Gentlemen, BRT is about the commuter. From today, we will live the BRT's driving philosophy, which is based on the dictum of the commuter being King and Queen.

Only 7 million, out of approximately 50 million, people in our country have access to their own motor vehicles. The other 43 million people depend upon public transport. Democracy is not only about the right to vote; it also about the freedom of movement.

This new commuter-focused service will, therefore, not only be affordable; this commuter-focused service must not only be reliable and regular; this service must not only be efficient and effective; but it must give all the people of this country peace of mind.

Waking up to go to work is a challenge on its own. In 2009, our public transport system must never add to that burden. Like in all 21st century societies, going to work must not be a life-threatening and nail-biting exercise. We are here today because we are not paralysed by the challenges that confront us.

We can do something about them. We are doing something about them. Today, we are involved in efforts to bring to this nation a collective peace of mind.

Peace of mind is assured when, even, as dusk falls, a mother is assured of safe and affordable travel back home. Peace of mind is when a party ends in Soweto, a teenager from Sandton is assured of a safe, affordable transit back home. Peace of mind is experienced when a worker's shift ends at midnight, she is assured of a state-sponsored public transport system that is reliable, safe and affordable.

We experience collective peace of mind when, as day dawns, workers are assured of arriving at work on time. Peace of mind is experienced when workers can move, without stress, around the city performing their jobs.

Public transport is no longer a luxury. Public transport is a necessity. Without public transport, a country wallows in underdevelopment, a country settles in economic degeneration.

An effective and efficient public transport system is a key requirement for economic growth and remains a key prerequisite for the movement of people. The right to travel, and move about, cannot be restricted by the absence of adequate transportation.

Today, therefore, we start a special journey. Today, we take a step towards improving the quality of life for all our people.

WHAT IS BRT?

Among others, the BRT system consists of 90-seater capacity trunk buses and 32-seater feeder buses, which will bring people from outer areas to the trunk routes. Over time, Rea Vaya will cover more than 300 kilometres of trunk routes, across the city, and is expected to transport 430 000 passengers daily.

Over time, business professionals and companies will also use the system and help us move private vehicles out of our congested roads. In readiness for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, BRT will provide cities with a fast, comfortable and low-cost urban transport system.

The BRT routes are designed to link up with the inner-city distribution systems and various other development nodes and residential areas. Various public transport interchange facilities, along the routes, will provide connection to other road-based public transport services servicing other areas of the city.

SUPPORT FOR BRT

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not going to achieve any of our goals and objectives unless we, all, pull together in the direction of collective peace of mind, in the direction of progress and prosperity.

We, therefore, acknowledge the unqualified support of all levels of government and organized formations in our communities, including the ANC, SACP, COSATU and SANCO.

In particular, we acknowledge the clarity of vision and the leadership on the part of Cabinet, the government of Gauteng and the City of Johannesburg, leading today's event.

Most of all, we are excited by the unwavering support this project has received from commuters. They have heralded BRT as fresh, and an idea whose time has come. On Wednesday (26 August 2009), Cabinet re-affirmed our commitment to implementing the BRT system in partnership with all stakeholders, especially the taxi industry. In this regard, we would also like to thank the taxi industry for its contribution to the success of the BRT process.

NATIONAL JOINT WORKING GROUP

Through the National Joint Working Group (NJWG) on Public Transport, we will continue our intensive engagement with the taxi industry on many issues including BRT, the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme as well as the regulation and legislation of the industry. But, we must also open the taxi industry to include activities beyond the running of a taxi to other benefits in the transport value-chain.

We believe the taxi industry is a key player in the transport sector. The taxi industry is a key player in the economy of our country. The taxi industry must, therefore, access as many opportunities in the transport sector and in the broader economy of our country.

LEAP OF FAITH

We must engage in a massive leap of faith.

The 1960's and 70's some saw the appearance of minibus-taxis, which were seen, by some, as a threat to the four-seater US-manufactured Valiants and Chevrolets, which served as taxis then. Today, many who owned those smaller vehicles have successfully migrated to larger mini-buses.

Compared to the Valiants and Chevrolets of old, the minibus is considerably safer; it carries more people and is considerably more environmentally friendly.

Today, BRT is considerably safer; it carries more people and is considerably cheaper to the commuter.

When voices were raised in the 70's against the encroachment of the minibus, no one cared to listen. In 2009, when voices are raised against BRT, government convened the National Joint Working Group, where all issues can be discussed and addressed.

The taxi industry still operates along apartheid policies, which dictated that towns and cities should be white by night. So when darkness falls, taxi owners are done for the day leaving the public without transport at night. The state remains obliged to enable the provision of an affordable, safe and reliable public transport system.

The previously intractable become possible, only, when the unapproachable start believing in the possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we call for a leap of faith on the part of the taxi industry, the public and all stakeholders who may not, yet, share this vision with us. We must all start believing that the previously unachievable can now be realised.

As government, we will ensure that, as a direct result of BRT, no legitimate jobs are lost. We also plead that no one, including members of the media, should gloat at the perceived weaknesses of our relationship.

We are certain to turn what may have appeared as an intractable problem into a spectacular success. Today, the apparently impossible becomes possible; the apparently unachievable becomes achievable; and the distances we once thought unreachable, suddenly come into view and become accessible to all.

Let the journey begin!!

THANK YOU!

Issued by: Department of Transport

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