Soweto residents have welcomed the launch of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System buses.

Thrilled Soweto residents had the opportunity to get a free ride on the state-of-the-art buses on Sunday, ahead of the official launch of the BRT on 30 August.

The brightly coloured red, blue and white busses became the centre of attraction as they parked at the station built next to Thokoza Park.

The buses are fitted with closed circuit television cameras, advanced control equipment and features that cater for people with disabilities.

The high floor buses will allow passengers to embark and disembark at closed, raised stations, with level boarding every half a kilometre to three quarters of a kilometre. It will cut traffic congestion and contribute to faster transit times as well as less fuel wastage and air pollution.

Speaking to BuaNews on his return to Orlando with Rea Vaya, Soweto resident, Sendi Sambo said the ride was so peaceful and comfortable.

“It’s so peaceful, you can easily fall asleep. I like the fact that they are cheap compared to what we are currently paying when going to town,” Mr Sambo said. He said it was a world class transport system and he couldn’t wait to use daily.

Modelled on Columbia’s public transport system, Rea Vaya will include 143 new buses that will operate between 5am and 11pm daily, at a frequency of three minutes in peak times and every 10 minutes during off-peak times.

Commuters will pay R3 for a trip in the inner city, and R8 for a full trip, with any number of transfers for two hours.

Tickets will be available at the stations and other vendors, with drivers not handling any money, thereby ensuring a much speedier service.

Pensioner Popi Malubane said she was relieved because the Rea Vaya will cost less than what she is currently paying.

“I can’t wait for month end so that I can use Rea Vaya. I’ll be spending R7 less from what I’m currently paying, this is all thanks to 2010 FIFA World Cup, which brought all these good things to us, who would have thought that one day we’ll be riding with luxury busses,” said Ms Malubane.

Thabo Mkhize said the Rea Vaya will create good competition with other transport operators and force them to improve their transport system.

“They’ll (transport operators) get a wake up call and ensure that their transport system also match the Rea Vaya standard, which is very high,” Mr Mkhize told BuaNews.

MEC for Gauteng Department of Community Safety, Khabisi Mosunkutu said transport was an important tool to develop society.

“Rea Vaya is a very important development in transport and we are happy that there are many taxi operators supporting the project.

“We acknowledged that some of them have concerns about the BRT but we will continue to engage with them so that all of us can move in the same direction,” Mr Mosunkutu said.

The first phase of the much anticipated Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System will start operating on 30 August.

Phase 1B of the BRT system, which is due before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will include a second Soweto route, running past the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand, on to Sandton.

Phase 1C will encompass the route from Alexandra to Cresta. – BuaNews