Volvo South Africa, the company contracted to build 25 buses for Port Elizabeth’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, has already begun building a prototype for the R100-million tender and is expected to deliver the first batch of buses early next year.

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said the 25 buses, of which 24 will be articulated and one a regular single coach, will cost an estimated R85-million, and the all-inclusive price of the project is R100-million.

“I do not want to commit to a date, but the first few buses will be running early next year, quite some time before the 2010 World Cup starts. The final unit is expected to be completed during June 2010.

“Volvo SA is in charge of building the buses, but the entire system will be run by the taxi operators as well as the bus operators, who will form a company which will be responsible for the management of the system,” Baron said.

He said the taxi association and bus operators had already drawn up business plans and presented them to the municipality.

Baron also said an agreement had been reached in which taxi and bus operators would be joint owners of Port Elizabeth’s BRT system.

The municipality and Volvo are still in negotiations about whether Volvo will install the smart- card system and run it.

Asked whether Volvo would install the system, Baron said: “In all probability, yes. The municipality is still in negotiations with the service provider regarding the smart-card system.”

Smart cards would be used for payment on the buses.

Volvo SA bus division general manager Marius Botha said the company Marcopolo would build the bus bodies.

“We have already started building the prototype buses. Once that’s complete we need the municipality to sign it off. Then we can start putting the buses together in Johannesburg.”

He said bus components would come from Sweden and Brazil.

The building project was not expected to create any further employment, as both Volvo SA and Marcopolo had a staff with the necessary expertise and skills to deliver the large project, Botha said.

To ensure the longevity of the buses in operation, Baron said, they would be serviced after every 15000km, which could be every second month, taking into account that each vehicle was expected to travel about 7500km a month.

Four Integrated Rapid Public Transport routes are under construction in Govan Mbeki Avenue and Kempston, Harrower and Fettes roads.

Baron said more routes would be created after the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, depending on future funding budgeted for the routes.

The buses, he said, would run as a rail-like system and follow a prescribed lane. “The BRT buses, taxis and regular buses will not interfere with normal traffic.”

Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage District Taxi Association chairman Melekile Hani said the body would be dissolved to form five primary co-operatives that would run a scheduled formal taxi service.

“Our business plan will have primary and secondary co-operatives. The primary one will run according to a schedule provided by the municipality with specific routes. The secondary co-operative will see the 10 associations in PE and Uitenhage coming together to manage the 25 buses for the World Cup.

“We did not agree to Algoa Bus being involved in running the 25 buses; it’s the taxi operators only that will control the BRT. Algoa buses will operate as normal,” Hani said.

He said it was not yet clear whether the buses would operate 24 hours a day or run on a 9-to-5 basis. “It will depend on funding from the Treasury.

“The municipality will provide us with a schedule stating how many times we must carry passengers to a certain area.

“We won’t have to wait for the taxis to fill up before moving on to our destination, because we’ll have to stick to the schedule and be able to rely on the subsidies to make up the rest of the money,” he said.