South Africa : BRT to be ready for Confederations Cup, says MEC

By Bathandwa Mbola

Johannesburg - The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is going ahead and will be introduced in Gauteng in time for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, Gauteng Transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs said on Tuesday.

The MEC said he was confident the system will be implemented in time for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup which kicks off in Gauteng on 14 June.

This is despite serious opposition from taxi operators and owners who recently protested against the project in Gauteng. Similar protests are underway in Cape Town with taxi operators and owners saying the new system will take business from them.

Mr Jacobs was addressing the media, together with other Gauteng MECs to elaborate on key government programmes, announced by Premier Paul Mashatile in his State of the Province address on Monday.

The fast, comfortable and low cost urban transport system, has been planned for all cities hosting World Cup matches to ensure tourists are able to move around with ease.

The system, once complete will feature dedicated and segregated bus-only lanes, as well as bus stations that are safe, comfortable, weather-protected and friendly to disabled passengers.

BRT systems combine the best features of rail together with the flexibility and cost advantages of road-based transport, and have the added advantage of being easier and faster to build than a light rail transport system.

In the first phase of BRT, buses will be running to 150 stations positioned half a kilometre from each other. The buses will run every three minutes during peak times, and every 10 minutes in off-peak times, running for 18 hours a day from 5am to midnight every day.

Regarding the concerns of taxi and bus operators and owners, Mr Jacobs said they were included in the BRT process for the past two years.

"The taxi industry elected its representative to sit on the body and worked for two years on this system with the City of Johannesburg. Now at the stage of implementation they are asking us to hold on."

On transport infrastructure readiness, Mr Jacobs said many of the province's roads have already or are being upgraded.

Also speaking at the event, Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation MEC Barbara Creecy said the provincial government was ready to welcome the seven countries (Brazil, Egypt, Italy, Iraq, New Zealand, Spain and the USA) who together with SA, will compete in the Confederations Cup later this year.

She said the province was currently conducting a feasibility study on "What's Next", a vision for the period beyond 2010 to ensure people and communities derived the maximum benefit from the event.

In years to come, South Africans will benefit from new and upgraded transport, broadcasting, information and telecommunication infrastructure as well as many other improved facilities.

In his speech on Monday, Mr Mashatile prioritised job creation, the provision of quality education and healthcare, combating crime, land reform and food security.

He noted that progress had been made in terms of ensuring economic growth, the creation of jobs and the support of small to medium-sized enterprises. - BuaNews