The City of Johannesburg would use its new Rea Vaya rapid bus transit (BRT) lanes and buses during next month’s Confederations Cup though final agreement had not been reached with the taxi industry on how the system would work, the Department of Transport said yesterday.

With just two weeks to go until the tournament and no agreement reached between the government and the industry on ownership of the new bus operations and associated businesses, the city had hoped to use the buses and dedicated lanes of the initial 25km-trunk route as a once-off event service for the duration of the tournament, in part to show critics the benefit it could bring to the city.

With the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) opposing any use of the BRT before it had agreed on how such systems should work, it was unclear whether the city’s plans would go ahead.

Yesterday, however, the department said they would.

“Due to the fact that negotiations with the taxi industry are still on- going, a special event transport service will be implemented in Johannesburg for the Confederations Cup.

“The city of Johannesburg is engaging with all relevant role players, including the taxi industry, on the implementation of this special event service,” transport director-general Mpumi Mpofu said .

Mpofu’s comment late yesterday came after Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele had put out a statement saying he was confident an “effective” transport system would be in place for the tournament.

Johannesburg member of the mayoral committee for transport Rehana Moosajee declined to comment, saying she was waiting to see the official communication from the department to the city.

Ndebele said he would meet the Santaco leadership on June 8.

Initially accused of not representing industry concerns about the new bus system, government-recognised Santaco has since become one of the loudest voices against the BRT.

Santaco is critical of the regional associations in Johannesburg that are in talks with the city on Rea Vaya, saying they are not representative of the industry.

President Jacob Zuma told a Santaco summit two days before last month’s election that he would put all BRT decision-making — such as the issues being discussed by Johannesburg and the steering committee — on hold until his government had had a chance to consult with the industry.

A key issue is how peripheral businesses arising from BRT operations are doled out, and Santaco wants to be involved in that.

Santaco responded cautiously to yesterday’s statement. “We will await government to indicate to us the nature of the special event service. We appreciate government’s commitment that the taxi industry will participate, but … we want to be consulted on what this participation means,” spokesman Thabisho Molelekwa said.

In preparation for the service, the city was planning to train 85 drivers, some of whom would come from taxi associations represented in the steering committee, said Darko Skrbinsen, a technical adviser to the committee .

“It will be a good chance to see how practical it is to work,” said Eric Motshwane, a steering committee member . “Obviously we would like to see our drivers taking part as a precursor to the proper introduction of the bus rapid transit service.”