CAPE TOWN — Cape Town has introduced a dedicated bus and taxi lane to speed up early morning commuter traffic along the N2 from densely populated residential areas, past the airport into the city.

Transport MEC Marius Fransman yesterday officially opened the R65m project, the first phase to improve the traffic flow along the N2 into the city. The next phase will be a project to remove blockages facing traffic as it moves through “hospital bend”, past the Groote Schuur hospital, at a cost of R125m.

He said the 11km bus and taxi lane was a radical intervention by the transport department , with assistance from the city, an intervention forced by the “growing spectre of traffic congestion”.

Fransman warned yesterday that private vehicles using the dedicated lane earmarked only for buses and minibus taxis would face R500 fines. He said a previous attempt in 1995 to enforce the dedicated lane had misfired because the necessary technology and law enforcement mechanisms had not been in place.

Fransman said that this was not the case now and that two years of negotiations between the government, the council and enforcement agencies had resulted in the deployment of a number of television cameras.

Enforcement officials based at the traffic nerve centre in Goodwood would make use of hi -tech automatic number plate recognition cameras to offer a “foolproof” way of identifying the drivers of private vehicles driving in the lane illegally.

From today , motorists using the lane illegally would be sent a fine in the post.

Fransman warned that if the authorities became aware of repeat offenders, he would not hesitate to use stronger measures, including the possibility of confiscating vehicles.

More than a million people used Cape Town’s roads during the morning peak period. This particular stretch of road carried more than 30000 commuters daily, about 18000 travelling in 900 public transport vehicles and 12500 in 7500 private vehicles.

Fransman called for a change in mind-set both from drivers of private vehicles, and taxi and bus drivers who would now have a stretch of road for their exclusive use. It was estimated that the new lane would cut commuter times for those using public transport by 30 minutes. Capetonians who continued to use private vehicles in the remaining two lanes would add between 10 and 15 minutes to their journeys.