PMB taxi owners worried about new bus system

2014-07-28 00:00

THREE taxi operators in Pietermaritzburg are deeply concerned about how the new Bus Rapid Transit system will impact their businesses.

The three taxi owners, Njabulo Nkomo, Wiseman Khanyile and Brian Dlamini, also happen to belong to the KwaZulu-Natal National Taxi Alliance, the membership of which, they believe, has excluded them from crucial negotiations with the city about the future of the transport system.

They say a steering committee comprising 26 taxi associations in the city, was biased toward Santaco, another national taxi association, and has effectively excluded owners from the KZN National Taxi Alliance.

In other cities, members of both groups have been included in negotiations regarding the introduction of the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) projects.

The project involves as many as 200 buses operating routes across the CBD in an effort to make public transport more efficient.

An environmental impact assessment for the project is under way in Pietermaritzburg.

Dlamini said the buses were likely to take over many of the routes being operated by taxis. Therefore, he believed taxi owners needed to own the bus company as compensation. He said they were also concerned about the loss of jobs that would arise from the project.

Taxi drivers, other people employed by the industry, and countless small businesses and traders that operate around taxi ranks were likely to lose their jobs because of the IRPTN, he said.

The municipality was failing to communicate these issues to the taxi industry, said Dlamini.

He said they were also concerned that the municipality was paying the 26 members of the taxi steering committee, yet the very same people had to negotiate a deal with the municipality on behalf of the entire city’s taxi owners.

The same kind of conflict of interest would arise when the project came on stream, with the municipality becoming owner of the bus project, but also performing the function of granting taxi operator permits, he said.

City denies alliance was excluded

THE Msunduzi Municipality has rejected claims that national taxi organisation, the KZN National Taxi Alliance, has been excluded from talks about a new bus system for the city.

The city said a committee that has been established to represent the minibus taxi industry in talks about the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) comprised 26 smaller associations, that all, in turn, belonged to national associations.

“Both bigger organisations [Santaco and National Taxi Association] are not represented in the committee as it is smaller affected associations that form part of the steering committee,” the city said.

The city said the 26 members of the committee were going to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to expose them to bus transport systems there.

“The funding for the IRPTN country wide provides line item on the budget for these, as they are seen as planning enhancers,” the municipality said in response to a question about who would fund the trip.

IRPTN projects in major cities are being funded by the Department of Transport.

The municipality also denied that there was a conflict of interest in the committee receiving “sitting fees” to attend meetings.

“All the cities in South Africa implementing the IRPTN are effecting sitting allowances for industry meetings,” the municipality said.

Public participation and stakeholder engagement sessions were expected to start next month, the municipality said. These sessions would include input from small businesses that might be affected by the project.

The municipality said it was a five-year project. “We are currently on a design phase for 2014/15. Thereafter, the phased implementation will begin,” it said.

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