Taxi owners finally buy into BRT

Taxis will become a less prominent part of Joburg’s CBD with the introduction of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele handed the BRT Rea Vaya Phase 1A bus operating company to taxi industry shareholders on Monday.

The taxi industry and the City of Johannesburg have had ongoing disputes about the new Bus Rapid Transit system, whose existence the taxi industry felt would threaten their livelihood. However, since taxi owners will now be the main shareholders of the Rea Vaya Phase 1A bus operating company, the industry is showing its support of the Rea Vaya BRT system.

“Today we celebrate a major milestone in the life of the taxi industry and of our country,” Ndebele said during the handover at Nancefield, in Johannesburg.

“We reaffirm that this important industry, which is owned, managed and controlled by black entrepreneurs, will no longer primarily be defined by violence and disorder,” he said.

Former taxi owners got 66.7 percent of the shares in the company, which owns buses and bus stations across Johannesburg. The remaining 33.3 percent was owned by the City of Johannesburg and other companies.

Ndebele said the company had a turnover of R174 million a year, from which the new owners would benefit.

“I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the taxi industry in opening a major shareholding and stake in the BRT system in Johannesburg.”

Former taxi owner Sicelo Mabaso was excited to be a part of this “new, sophisticated” transport industry. “We are hoping that even those taxi owners who are still against the BRT will now come on board as they will see this is working and it’s a viable business,” he said.

It had been a “long journey to success” in the industry’s partnership with the government, with a “lot of challenges”.

“As you remember there were shootings when these buses began operating in the roads. Members of the public were shot and injured by the taxi operators who were against this system. Some owners were killed for being in favour of the BRT,” he said.

There were about four shootings during implementation of various phases of the Bus Rapid Transit system in Johannesburg.

At the hand-over, old unsafe minibuses, which their owners had exchanged for equity in the new venture, were scrapped.

As he watched his minibus being squashed, with the assembled guests looking on, Sipho Khanyi said it was a day of mixed emotions.

“Seeing my minibus taxi being scrapped was very said for me, but there’s also the excitement of being involved in this new viable, sustainable business that will add value to my life and the future of my children.”

Khanyi, 52, has been in the taxi industry for 21 years. He owns eight other taxis which other taxi operators forced off the road last year.

“My other taxis have not been operating for over a year now. My drivers were intimidated by other operators because of my involvement with BRT. Hopefully, those against BRT will come on board now, as we are living proof that it is working.”

A total of 349 more minibus taxis would be scrapped and the metal recycled.

The Rea Vaya buses transport about 30,000 passengers with 1313 trips across Johannesburg daily. There are 143 buses and 30 Rea Vaya stations.

The city of Johannesburg initially signed a contract with Clidet, an interim company owned by BRT Systems Trust. Clidet signed a management contract with Metrobus to manage the bus operating company.

On January 31, Clidet’s interim board passed a resolution for the transfer of shares to the new shareholders from the taxi industry. These are organised into nine Taxi Operator Investor Companies and a trust. They have reserved Piotrans as the new name for the company to replace Clidet.

Ndebele said he would like to see that project being rolled out in other provinces as well.

Sourced by SA – The Good News via Sapa