|The city of Cape Town is confident that its integrated rapid transit (IRT) system will be implemented from next May despite initial resistance from taxi operators.
Some taxi operators are still talking tough when it comes to the IRT system, but city media manager Kylie Hatton insists the city is in “constant communication” with the taxi industry and that talks are progressing well.
Hatton said on Monday that all IRT plans were going ahead unabated, and that talks with industry roleplayers were well advanced. She said the city’s primary focus now was to get services running on the “key routes”, as agreed with Fifa.
“Bus services from the airport to the city, in and around the CBD and on other specialised routes will be ready in time for the World Cup,” said Hatton. But while only parts of phase 1A of the IRT would be ready for the soccer showpiece, the city was working around the clock to get the link from Atlantis to the city, along the R27, operational for the event too.
Hatton said talks between the city and the taxi industry about how the new system would be implemented were at an advanced stage. “Talks have progressed very well and they have already gotten to the nitty-gritty parts of how the system will work on the ground,” she said.
The IRT system, a cashless mode of transport, will run seven days a week from 4.30am to midnight. Commuters will have to buy a travel smartcard on which they will have to load a travelling fee, similar to loading airtime on to a cellphone, before boarding the buses.
Commuters will swipe the smartcard when they enter and exit the system. “This system will be very sophisticated, a world-class public transport system similar to what they have in London and the America,” said Hatton.
Last week the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) called for full ownership of the IRT, if it was implemented. The taxi alliance demanded “100 percent” ownership of the new public transport system, the security on its routes and trading outlets at IRT bus stations.
NTA general secretary Alpheus Mlalazi said the government should register the IRT in its name, giving the taxi industry “complete ownership” of the system and its full value chain. Mlalazi said that if the bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which is part of the IRT, was implemented on the country’s minibus taxi routes, it should be owned by the taxi industry.
“All the systems, the security, the trading outlets and kiosks at the new bus stations must be operated by us,” he said. Provincial NTA spokesperson Mvuyisi Mente, who has for months been calling for the IRT to be scrapped, said: “If the government implements this system without us, there will be chaos in the city.”
In response, Hatton said the existing minibus taxi industry would play a significant role in the implementation of IRT in Cape Town. “The city envisages the existing minibus taxi and bus industries playing a leading role in the new system, by forming companies that will be contracted to operate the IRT system’s vehicles,” she said.
“The city has met with the NTA on a number of occasions, in order that they can inform themselves of the proposed new IRT system and how the city envisages the existing public transport industry participating in the new system.”
Previously the NTA refused to listen to presentations on the IRT, although it had now indicated that it might be prepared to consider the detail of the proposals, said Hatton. “The City of Cape Town wants to offer public transport operators, on routes directly affected by the proposed IRT system, the opportunity to participate and share in the IRT,” she said.