The Bus Rapid Transit system represents one great leap that combines safety and affordability of public transport, according to Minister of Transport Sibusiso Ndebele.

“We have no doubt that as we provide more of these convenient forms of public transport nationally, we will have fewer cars on our roads and thus fewer accidents.”

Ndebele was speaking at the official launch of this year’s Transport Month, on Wednesday, 30 September at Park Station in the Joburg CBD. As he took to the podium to speak, curious passers-by and those interested in the future of public transport stopped to listen.

Every now and then he was interrupted by loud applause and cheering from the audience, who clearly supported what he had to say about the safety and security measures to be put in place around public transport.

“Road safety is a necessary condition for us to move from our developing status to being developed because dead people do not enjoy the benefits of development.”

At the event, a Railway Police Coach consisting of holding cells and a charge office was also launched. By June 2010, eight such coaches will be operational; the number will rise to 30 by 2011.

Ndebele said these coaches would ensure that those who committed criminal offences on a train did not have to wait until the next train station to be charged. They could be charged on the train and be kept in the holding cell until the next station, from where they would be taken to the nearest police station.

“We continue treating safety in passenger rail, and will continue to improve visible policing within the rail environments and in trains,” Ndebele said. “Our co-operation with the South African Police Service has seen the roll-out of the Railway Police.”

One ticket
Another milestone in public transport was the integrated transport system, which would be ready in 2010.

Under this system, visitors could land at OR Tambo International Airport, hop on the Gautrain to Sandton, then take a Rea Vaya bus to Soweto, and finally get on the Gautrain to Tshwane. It would be possible to take all these journeys using one integrated system ticket bought at the airport.

Also present at the event was the City of Johannesburg’s member of the mayoral committee for transport, Rehana Moosajee, who welcomed the minister and other visitors to the city of gold.

A cheerful Moosajee commented on how Park Station had improved in the past 30 years.

“There are many, many people in our country who travel overseas and see facilities like this one and say, ‘Ah if only we had a rail station like this one’. [But] the problem is that the last time they were at Park Station was 30 years ago.”

Also at the launch was Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa; police commissioner, Bheki Cele; Gauteng transport MEC, Bheki Nkosi; and KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC, Willies Mchunu.

Activities will take in place in all seven of Johannesburg’s regions to celebrate Transport Month.

These include the launch of a public transport facility in Cosmo City on Thursday, 15 October. On 20 October, it is Car Free Day, an annual event during which people are encouraged to use public transport and other modes of transport instead of private vehicles.

Then, on 23 October, a Transport Indaba will be held at a venue still to be announced. It will focus on seeking short- and long-term solutions to public transport problems. Key focus will include congestion, feedback on the Rea Vaya starter service, public transport facilities and 2010.