The City of Johannesburg is pushing ahead with plans to run its Rea Vaya bus rapid transit service during the Confederations Cup soccer tournament next month and is compiling a list of drivers with suitable licences to be trained ahead of the two-week event.

The city officials downplay the involvement of taxi drivers in the “event service”, as it calls the ad- hoc use of the system, before making any agreement with the taxi industry over a more permanent service.

Showing off a bus system that works will be one of the best ways to weaken opposition and bring about agreement on the ownership and running of a full-time rapid bus service. “It should show to everyone — to commuters, the taxi industry, bus industry — it’s there, it’s coming, it can work,” said city technical adviser Darko Skrbinsen.

The city requires 85 drivers for buses during the event service.

“That doesn’t mean all 85 drivers will come only from the taxi industry,” Skrbinsen said. “There could be 10 bus drivers from the taxi industry or 70 or 80 — we don’t know at this stage. We are trying to prepare the list and register as many taxi drivers who are pre- qualified in terms of their licence to be ready to drive the bus.”

Bus drivers required a licence code 14 or code EC, he said.

The start of the first phase of Rea Vaya in Johannesburg — centred on a trunk line stretching from Regina Mundi in Soweto to Ellis Park — was delayed after President Jacob Zuma called for a halt on decision-making processes until his new government had had a chance to listen to taxi industry opposition to the plan.

While infrastructure work has continued, decisions on other aspects, such as the peripheral businesses stemming from the bus operations, have been put on hold. Johannesburg, which had aimed for a June 1 start, was now looking at September, Skrbinsen said.

Taxi operators on the steering committee that is discussing the topic with the city are keen to be involved in the event-service bus rapid transit service.

“It will be a good chance to see how practical it is to work,” said Eric Motshwane, chairman of the Greater Johannesburg Regional Taxi Association.

“Obviously we would like to see our drivers taking part as a precursor to the proper introduction of the bus rapid transit service.”

A separate plan will see 3000 taxis in Gauteng form part of a separate service in place during the Confederations Cup, carrying people to games from designated hubs.

The service, co-ordinated by the provincial transport department, will see passengers wearing colour- coded armbands that will enable marshals to direct them to and from the appropriate taxis.

The effort, combining 900 taxis from Johannesburg associations, 800 from Pretoria, 800 from the East Rand and 250 from each of the Vaal and West Rand, had the agreement of all 200 provincial associations — including those that oppose the bus rapid transit service, Motshwane said.