The City of Johannesburg would not start operating its Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system (BRT) until the end of August, even though it is in a position to do so now, Rehana Moosajee, member of the mayoral committee responsible for transport, said yesterday.

“Although Phase 1A of the BRT from Regina Mundi to Ellis Park has been on target, the City of Johannesburg’s mayoral committee … decided to delay (it) to the end of August,” Moosajee said.

“Being cognisant of … events that have unfolded, the city has taken a considered decision.”

Moosajee outlined the future of SA’s first BRT at a press briefing yesterday.

While the city has been in talks with local taxi operators for almost three years about implementing Rea Vaya, decision-making came to a halt in April after opposition from the South African National Taxi Council prompted President Jacob Zuma to put the processes on ice.

In the face of continued opposition, the national government does not want Johannesburg to use the Rea Vaya buses — even for the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, long seen as a test run for next year’s Soccer World Cup — until a set of rules for all BRT systems has been agreed upon by the national taxi body.

In a sign of growing confidence Moosajee, who has not commented on taxi opposition to Rea Vaya since Zuma’s April announcement, invited taxi owners and drivers who were still unsure about the process to come forward and find out more.

“I would like to (repeat) our call to taxi operators to join the negotiating process,” she said.

Negotiations conducted by the city would conform with the framework to be worked out by the Department of Transport, she said. The combined bus-and-taxi operation to ferry soccer fans to and from Ellis Park for Confederations Cup matches demonstrated the co- operative relationship between city and local taxi industry.

“iTransie is being run in partnership with the taxi industry and we hope this partnership will be carried forward.”

The transport system, known as iTransie 2 Ellispark, will use a combination of 77 Metrobus and Putco buses, along with 470 taxis, all branded for the event, to ferry fans from four park-and-ride stations around Johannesburg.

Buses will start leaving the Coca-Cola Dome, the west campus of the University of the Johannesburg, Nasrec Expo Centre and Bezuidenhout Valley park-and-ride sites four hours before kickoff, and take people back to the same points for four hours after the match.

While the standard set by soccer’s international governing body Fifa was for match stadiums to be cleared within two hours of a match finishing, Johannesburg was aiming to have them cleared within an hour, said Lisa Seftel, the city’s executive director of transport.

Seftel said the city had not yet recruited many bus drivers for Rea Vaya, but that as September came closer, the “recruitment process is going to intensify”.

Moosajee said members of the taxi industry were showing increasing interest in taking part in the new system, and that the city was committed to finding their (taxi drivers’) role within it.

“We remain very optimistic that the Johannesburg process is far down the line … and the transformation of public transport is finally on the agenda in this city,” she said.