THE City of Johannesburg has not yet decided when a consortium of taxi operators that is to take over the Rea Vaya bus system will start running it.

Lisa Seftel, executive director of transport in the city, said this week that in the first quarter of next year the city’s mayoral committee would decide when the new company would start operating Rea Vaya.

She acknowledged that negotiations were characterised by “a lot of complexity” as they involved city officials and 29 representatives of more than 300 operators affected by phase 1A of the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system.

Seftel said the city was targeting next month as the deadline for the signing of the bus operator contract, the central part of the talks between the city and the taxi operators that will result in the new company.

Once this contract was signed, Seftel said, there would be a change in ownership from the interim company that operates Rea Vaya to the new business.

However, this agreement does not mean that the new owner will start operating Rea Vaya immediately, which suggests that the city’s bus rapid transit project has suffered a setback.

Seftel said other issues on the negotiation table included input costs, maintenance expenses, loan provisions and how the new operator would work.

At the heart of the negotiations — and the likely stumbling block — was the fee per kilometre, the rate the city would pay to the operating company that would be contracted for 12 years to provide the bus rapid transit service, she said.

Sicelo Mabaso, who is on the phase 1A taxi negotiating team and chairman of the Top Six Taxi Association, said that aside from the fee-per-kilometre issue, the parties had not agreed on what would happen after the 12-year contract expired.

At the moment, Rea Vaya, operated by an interim company, involves 40 buses on the trunk route from Regina Mundi in Soweto to Ellis Park. The full phase 1A includes 143 buses on routes from Protea Glen to Mofolo Park, Naledi and Eldorado Park.

Commenting on the recent killings of taxi bosses, Seftel said these incidents were “unfortunate”, but she vowed that “we are determined to go on”.

Seftel said the city was responding to the United Taxi Association Forum, which has so far excluded itself from the bus rapid transit process. It now wants to be part of the negotiations.

“We will do what we can to get them up to speed,” Seftel said.