JOHANNESBURG – There is no need for government to pretend that there are no challenges facing the modern transport system, according to chairman of the portfolio committee on transport, Ruth Bhengu. She says the suspension of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the Johannesburg CBD is “unfortunate” but that educating commuters in the CBD through proper consultation prior to the implementation, was essential. The suspension of the system is a reflection of the lack of research.

“There was a gap in the consultation process and the former director-general in the department admitted to that effect, and therefore it is government’s responsibility to communicate with the commuters,” said Bhengu. “We need to ask ourselves if the BRT was implemented based on perceived needs (meaning an intervention that is not clear in the services to be rendered to the people) or self needs (meaning everyone has to feel part of it).

“We need to confront the BRT challenges and… we need to be led by the commuters themselves, because the suspension of the BRT in Johannesburg indicates an intervention which was based on perceived needs – whereby government will be wasting a lot of money and it is something that is not needed.  “We need to confront these BRT challenges collectively (as government, the taxi industry and commuters).”

Commenting on the fact that commuters would rather walk from point A to point B, Bhengu said the country’s socio-economic conditions played a role. “One thing we need to take into consideration is that South Africa is still a developing country and therefore commuters in the inner-city would rather choose to save the R5 for the ticket to buy a loaf of bread. The BRT routes were officially suspended in the CBD yesterday and will be launched again later next year.