The R1,6-billion phase 1A of Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system will now be operational by August 30, says Rea Vaya BRT project manager Bob Stanway.

The City of Johannesburg was forced to revise its June 14 starting date of a major portion of phase 1A, in time for the FIFA Confederations Cup, as disgruntled taxi drivers and operators in March staged violent protests against the implementation of the BRT system.

Taxi operators also accused the city of sidelining some relevant parties.

The city wants to draw the taxi industry into the BRT system – also operational in countries such as China and Australia – as operators.

Taxis will not be allowed to use the dedicated BRT lanes, and have the same origin and destination as BRT buses.

Some 575 taxis will be affected by the implementation of Rea Vaya.

The BRT system will transport commuters in buses using dedicated lanes, with purpose-built stations every 750 m.

“The target for the end of June was to have the full phase 1A ready,” says Stanway. “This was 25 stations with 25 km of trunk route. However, we’ll have 26 stations and 25 km of trunk route ready by this time. We’re waiting for the last station to [be completed] in July, and then we’ll launch the full phase 1A of 27 stations, 25 km of trunk routes, as well as feeder routes on August 30.

“On June 14, when the Confederations Cup kicked off, we were supposed to start operations with 14 stations and 25 km of trunk route, and we were ready to do so.”

Work that is still continuing includes fitting the stations with closed-circuit tele- vision (CCTV) cameras, with the buses still to get CCTV, variable-message systems, audio announcement systems and global positioning systems.

The BRT control room in the heart of Johannesburg is also nearly up and running.

The phase 1A fleet will consist of 143 buses, with 75 complementary buses already in South Africa, ready for deployment, with 41 articulated buses to still arrive in July, as well as the remainder of the complementary bus fleet.

Stanway says the way forward is for the BRT system to continue its implementation process.

As for the conflict with taxi operators, he says there is a “con- sensus view across all tiers of govern- ment that we must run an inclusive process”. “We have subworkstreams dealing with taxi operators and all other affected parties to make sure everyone who should be involved in the process is involved.”

Stanway says it is feasible that affected taxi operators may become BRT operators by August.

He notes that driver training with bus supplier Scania is “ready to go”, with a number of taxi drivers and owners already signed up.

The Rea Vaya BRT system will require two bus drivers for each bus.

Stanway says the city will use the months following August as a period of consolidation, before moving ahead with subsequent BRT phases, such as expanding phase 1 to the Soccer City stadium, at Nasrec.