Tempers flare as Johannesburg residents fight BRT

2015-06-05 08:24
Rea Vaya buses. (Lucky Nxumalo, City Press)

Rea Vaya buses. (Lucky Nxumalo, City Press)

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Johannesburg - The City of Johannesburg should rather use the money it has set aside for developing a Bus Rapid Transit system along Louis Botha Avenue to develop Alexandra township, a Highlands North resident told city officials on Thursday.

Karen Sabbioni has lived in Highlands North for more than 40 years and says building a BRT system along the popular road will restrict the freedom of movement for residents, which is unconstitutional.

"They should take the R568m and fix up Alexandra which would be more beneficial than what they are doing here. They should use that money to fix up Alex! This Rea Vaya is being foisted on us, it's unconstitutional," she said at public meeting hosted by the city.

The city intends on building a BRT corridor along Louis Botha, creating a direct access route for public transport users from the inner city through to Sandton. They are currently repairing and strengthening the roads.

Louis Botha is a major road which links the centre of Johannesburg to the north of the city. It currently has two lanes. Once the Rea Vaya bus system is completed, only one lane will be used by private motorists and taxis.

High volumes of traffic

Residents complained on Thursday that if one lane was set aside exclusively for the buses, it would increase the already high volumes of traffic in the area.

"Why have you picked Louis Botha when it is so narrow? You should have widened the roads years ago. I'm surprised this is going ahead," JK Gallan told the city's regional director Liziwe Ntshinga-Makoro during the meeting. The elderly man said he had lived in the area for his entire life.

Ntshinga-Makoro is the director of region E of Johannesburg which includes: Alexandra, Houghton, Norwood, Saxonwold, Bryanston, Sandringham, Lyndhurst, Linksfield, Orange Grove, Bezuidenhout Valley, Malvern, Linbro Park and Rounders Hill, among others.

Residents complained to officials at the meeting that they had not kept their promise to conduct their work at night. They also raised the fact that a fence erected in the middle of the road, was actually separating residents as they could no longer cross the road to visit one another.

"The rationale is that there is a lot of jay walking on Louis Botha and we want people to use pedestrian crossings," Siyabonga Genu from the Johannesburg Development Agency explained to the residents.


An elderly man stood up and walked towards Ntshinga-Makoro, then shouted "This is ridiculous!" in her ear before walking out of the public meeting. She remained calm and watched the man as he walked out of the community hall still shouting.

Throughout the meeting, residents continuously raised their voices and spoke over officials as they presented or explained the development taking place in the area, which is set to be completed by March 2017. They said they were not consulted prior to the project commencing.

Ntshinga-Makoro said there had been extensive consultation done with those who would be affected by the development and that this meeting was a continuation of that engagement.

Brian Romberg, a veterinarian who runs an animal hospital along Louis Botha Avenue, said his business was suffering due to the construction in front of his business. He had had to halt surgeries and turn clients away last week after construction work in the street affected the water system, he said.

He had no water at the hospital from Thursday to Sunday last week and again this week.

Business ‘won’t survive’

"The business is suffering, there is a drop in our income. We will not survive until 2017," he told officials.

BP garage owner Johnny Gatti said the redirecting of traffic flow was causing major problems with his business as fuel delivery trucks now had to use other routes to reach his business.

"I have highly flammable liquids on site. How are the fire trucks going to get onto my site [if a fire was to start]?"

Residents also complained that the city had cut down a large number of trees along the road and it was not clear why.

"Some of the trees that were taken down were in the road reserves and we needed to remove them to widen the road," Ntshinga-Makoro said.

By the end of the meeting, a once full hall was half empty.

Two more projects are also under way in the area, a Paterson Park Precinct development as well as the Balfour Park development framework.

Read more on:    city of johannesburg  |  rea vaya  |  johannesburg  |  brt  |  transport  |  local government

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