The taxi operators’ rejection of the Bus Rapid Transit system will not stop government’s plans to transform transport in the country, the Gauteng department of community safety said on Thursday.

“It is regrettable that the taxi organisations have rejected the government offer with regards to the BRT issue,” said a statement issued by Thapelo Moiloa.

BRT was transforming the transport system, with millions invested and the engineering achievements lauded. “The September deadline will not be revisited unless there are infrastructural challenges. We remain committed to the project, and test runs are key and will not be interrupted,” Moiloa said.

The government and taxi operators were at loggerheads over the introduction of the BRT, supposed to be implemented in June but since set back to September.

Taxi drivers were to be retrained as bus drivers and taxis would be removed from the BRT routes, becoming part of a feeder system instead.

The taxi industry was enraged, saying the government was muscling it out of routes it had developed over decades and considered its own intellectual property.

SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) president Andrew Mthembu wrote on the council’s website: “The taxi industry has been the de facto BRT for decades purely on the basis of its convenience, frequency, reliability and efficiency to mention a few and it would consequently be logical to award Santaco the first right of refusal, not only on BRT but on the entire public transport initiatives.”

He said that as a fully black-owned business, the industry had been relegated to the bottom of the black empowerment “food chain” and that a remodelled BRT could reverse this.

“If despite these realities, the taxi industry continued to be a serious poverty alleviation player providing over 200 000 jobs, being defined in the second economy yet hugely acting as a support system for the first economy with influence of billions to the insurance, petroleum, manufacturing and retail stores, it cannot be a business blunder and regret for government to surrender BRT to the taxi industry and take (a) regulatory role.”