The Johannesburg metro police officers had their hands full keeping control of a crowd of excited children who thronged Thokoza Park to celebrate the launch of the Rea Vaya buses on Sunday, 16 August.

For several minutes, there was chaos along Chris Hani Road as the children ran towards the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station to admire the new blue buses parked in the lane, bringing traffic to a stop. To add to the excitement passengers from buses passing Thokoza Park waved out of the windows and screamed for joy at the sight of the splendid buses parked in the BRT lane.

Speaking at the launch of the buses, the member of the mayoral committee for transport, Rehana Moosajee, said the BRT would restore pride and dignity to many people. “This is a very important service which will provide a lifeline service for many people, particularly the elderly, disabled and those with young families – who would otherwise struggle to get out and about.”

She explained that information about BRT would be disseminated in many communities to help people understand how the system would work. “Let’s move forward and never backward,” she said.

Councillor Zanele Lutya welcomed the launch of the new public transport network. “It is a good addition to the local public transport system. I hope many people will make the most of this new service,” she said.

Christopher Ljungner, the managing director of Scania, said Rea Vaya would help to ease the challenge of transport in Joburg. “We are delighted to work together with the City. The BRT is a great concept and we are pleased to be part of it,” he said.

Scania is making the chassis and engines for 140 BRT buses; Marco Polo is taking care of the bus bodies.

After a ribbon around a bus was cut, marking the launch, hundreds of people queued impatiently outside the BRT station to ride in the new buses. Some of the other highlights of the action-packed afternoon were face painting, performances by dancers and musicians, including DJ Sbu and Khanyi Mbau.

Rea Vaya will begin with a starter service on 30 August, and people will be able to ride for free on the first day. Phase 1A routes will travel from Regina Mundi Church in Soweto to Orlando, and along Pat Mbatha Highway to the inner city.

It will transport commuters in buses using dedicated lanes, with purpose-built stations every 750 metres.

Passengers will pay R3 a ticket to use the inner city routes, R5 a ticket for the trunk routes and R8 for a number of transfers in two hours. For the starter services, buses using the inner city routes will operate between 5am and 8.30am and between 3pm and 8.30pm at 10- to 15-minute intervals.