Taxi-free Durban CBD?

2013-08-21 00:00

DURBAN could become a taxi-free zone if the council gets the buy-in of the taxi industry, supporting their plan to implement an Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN).

Dr Pixley kaSeme (West) Street and Anton Lembede (Smith) Street remain a major concern for the city with taxi’s occupying lanes and often obstructing traffic.

Members of the eThekwini Executive Committee (Exco) have now endorsed the use of section 36 of the Municipal Finance Management Act to appoint two consultants who will be working as technical advisers to assist with the implementation of the IRPTN.

Under this section, the metro is allowed to bypass normal tender procedures if urgent tasks need to be carried out, and those appointed have a proven track record. The proposed advisers are expected to give technical support to the taxi industry and small bus operators for the implementation of IRPTN.

The city said they had recognised the importance of involving the taxi industry, and the need to appoint technical advisers who understand how the industry works.

A report tabled to Exco by city manager S’bu Sithole showed that the council is at an advanced planning stage for the implementation of the IRPTN. “The eThekwini Transport Authority indicated that they intended to appoint advisers for them through the normal supply chain management process and introduce them to the industry. However, the taxi industry and small bus operators objected to the proposal and indicated that have their technical advisers that they prefer to have advising them on the IRPTN,” said Sithole.

Zwakele Mncwango, the DA’s caucus leader in the municipality, asked Sithole to provide the cost of employing the advisers. Sithole said he was not aware of the cost implication at this stage. “But the advisers would be paid within the parameter of consultants. Implementing the IRPTN is a huge project that involves many billions of rands. This new project is a new terrain altogether. It requires people with knowledge of the industry,” he said.

The implementation of IRPTN will see the establishment of nine transport corridors, linked by various modes of transport across eThekwini by 2020. It aims at providing affordable and accessible public transport to eThekwini citizens and connect different areas around the city.

Sithole said work on phase one, which consists of three corridors, is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Johannesburg became the first city to introduce the integrated transport system, but there was significant resistance initially with certain taxi associations and operators allegedly intimidating those operators supportive of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).

In terms of the National Land Transport Act, the city can negotiate contracts with affected operators to introduce IRPTN. City of Johannesburg’s BRT spokesperson, Lisa Seftel, said where the BRT replaces minibus taxi operations, negotiations need to commence with the affected operators.

“The city has contracted and paid for independent consultants/technical support of the affected minibus taxi operators’ choice,” she said.

Taxi operators own and run 143 buses that provide services between Soweto and the CBD, she said.

eThekwini spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said they were following a similar model to other cities. “The process to employ the consultants is not completed yet. Ultimately, we want to see buses in the city and taxi operators involved having shares.”

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