Minister thanks taxi industry
Johannesburg - Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele commended the taxi industry on Tuesday for calling off a planned strike against the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
"Taxi operations are back to normal today [Tuesday]. As government, we remain committed to implementing the BRT system in partnership with all stakeholders, especially the taxi industry," Ndebele said.
"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.
"We want to commend the taxi industry and the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) for calling off its planned strike against the Bus Rapid Transit system," the minister said.
Taxis did not run on Monday in protest against the BRT system, a more streamlined bus service which some taxi operators perceive as a threat to their business.
Santaco said taxi operators had agreed to resume operations after a meeting on Monday afternoon.
"Taxi operators had abruptly embarked on a go-slow [on Monday] in protest to the BRT project but agreed to resume operations after an agreement that until the report back meeting [from government] had taken place, it was only appropriate to suspend the go-slow," said spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa.
The report back meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday.
Eric Motswane, chairperson of the Greater Johannesburg Regional Taxi Council, told Sapa taxis were back on the road on Tuesday morning.
"They are running normally," he said.
Ndebele said the BRT system was launched to make life easier for commuters.
Freedom of movement
"Out of approximately 50 million people in our country, only about seven million have access to personal vehicles. This means that at least 43 million of our people depend upon public transport," said Ndebele.
"Democracy is not only about the right to vote; it is also about the freedom of movement.
"Public transport is no longer a luxury. Public transport is a necessity. Without public transport, a country wallows in underdevelopment and settles in economic degeneration."
The BRT is a new and faster bus system. In the first phase in Johannesburg, it links Soweto to the Johannesburg central business district and Ellis Park.
In Pretoria, it will link Mamelodi, Soshanguve and Mabopane to the CBD and Menlyn in the first phase.
The high-security buses will service townships and bus stations. The BRT system will include park-and-ride facilities, drop-off zones, metered-taxi ranks, bike parking and information kiosks.
It will operate through electronic ticketing designed to make passenger queues shorter.
The buses will run in exclusive dedicated lanes in the centre of existing roads from about 150 stations, positioned half-a-kilometre apart and will run every three minutes in peak times and every 10 minutes in off-peak times.
The first phase in the country was launched in Johannesburg on Sunday and other cities are expected to follow suit soon.
The opposition DA has welcomed the peaceful launch of BRT in Johannesburg.
"It was with a sense of relief that the launch of the BRT in Johannesburg this week went off without too much disruption by the taxi industry," said DA spokesperson Stuart Farrow.
"Santaco must put the interests of commuters, their clients, above member interests as there is an opportunity for them in the BRT if they continue to co-operate."