The taxi industry in Nelson Mandela Bay has been granted permission to have an audience with the council to present its business plan on the controversial ownership of the Bus Rapid Transit system.

The date of the meeting has still to be finalised.

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron confirmed that the Metro Public Taxi Forum (MPTF) had advanced its wish to the municipality to have its plan adopted by the council, but said the date of the meeting still had to be finalised.

“No decision has been taken yet on when (the forum) will be doing its presentation, but the council is aware of its wishes.”

Among the many demands in the industry‘s business plan is to be granted full ownership of the BRT entity, which would give it total power over the operation of the buses and taxis. However, the municipality has rejected the plan.

In October, the municipality put out a tender for buses that would work in tandem with taxis in the BRT system around the city.

Baron said the municipality was still “engaging with the tender process”.

The 2010 World Cup is 11 months away but there still appears to be no clear direction on how many buses will be manufactured, the costs and timeframe for their supply, and when a supplier will be appointed. However, the municipality has set itself a deadline to finish construction at BRT sites by mid-May next year.

There was “absolute confidence” that construction at the sites was on track, and no delays were envisaged, Baron said.

MPTF spokesman Siyanda Mbanjwa confirmed that the municipality had met some of the forum‘s demands after agreeing to alter the initial plan.

Three weeks ago, the municipality took forum members on site visits to check on progress.

“We are happy with the progress made so far … including the fact that some of our demands have been met. Negotiations are still continuing to iron out any bottlenecks,” Mbanjwa said.

According to Baron, certain amendments to the initial BRT plan had to be made to incorporate a “revised vision” based on the demands of the taxi industry.

Mbanjwa said the contentious issue was that the taxi industry wanted to take over the BRT as an entity, evaluate some of the proposed items in the overall structure and make necessary changes.

He said the industry had rejected the BRT in its present form on the basis that it was introduced to the industry with certain proposals already made. These, among others included the proposed ticketing system, which he said would be evaluated. “Not everything is set to be changed if it appears to be a potential success and have some kind of benefit … but we want to ensure we get everything right,” he said.

Forum chairman Zukile Jodwana confirmed that negotiations with the municipality were still ongoing. He said it was still “premature” to say when construction at BRT sites would be completed.

The BRT system is a government project that is a Fifa requirement for all 2010 World Cup host cities, and is set to revolutionise the country‘s public transport system. In Mandela Bay, construction work is taking place in Motherwell, the Uitenhage CBD, Kwazakhele, Cleary, Korsten, Greenacres and Govan Mbeki Avenue.

Last year and again early this year, violent protests erupted, plunging Mandela Bay into chaos, as taxi operators boycotted the government‘s BRT plan, indicating it would put them out of business.

Contracts totalling R75-million have been completed on routes used by public transport vehicles in New Brighton and Kwazakhele, two of Mandela Bay‘s five BRT operating contract areas.

In these areas, a network of routes has been designed that will include feeder routes within residential areas, local routes between residential areas, BRT routes to the city centre, and express routes where the freeways will be used.

Late last year, operators demanded the project be redesigned to allow taxis to operate freely in the city and that new bus lanes be built in certain areas.

They also wanted both taxis and bus operators to have equal access to BRT infrastructure in the CBD, rejecting plans to make taxis “feeders” to buses.

Click here to view the BRT route design