After almost a year in limbo, a R100-million tender to build buses for Port Elizabeth’s controversial Bus Rapid Transit system has been awarded to Volvo South Africa.

The company “will run the entire BRT project”, the municipality said yesterday. “They will order parts from companies overseas to build the BRT buses, which will be ready in time for the World Cup, and those buses will run together with the Algoa buses and taxis,” spokesman Kupido Baron said.

While the Port Elizabeth BRT has battled to get off the ground, it was reported yesterday that Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya BRT system – launched on August 30 – already transports an average of 16000 people every day.

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

“We will have a similar system to what we have now with the buses, in that the government will subsidise the taxis and buses.”

The tender for the buses was placed last October.

“Volvo South Africa was found to be the best candidate to build the buses through the adjudication process.

“ The contract is worth R100-million and the number of buses to be built will depend entirely on the company, as well as the cost of each of the buses.”

A smart- card system would be used for payment on the buses, he said.

“People will be able to load money on the card and swipe it when they enter the buses. The intricate details of how it will work and where people will be able to purchase them or load money onto them has not yet been decided.”

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

“There are only four routes mapped out for now for cost-cutting reasons, but after 2010 there will definitely be more routes, depending on how much funding we can get at the time,” Baron said.

Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage District Taxi Association chairman Melekile Hani said the municipality had accepted their business plan in which they proposed a “phased in” approach.

“In our business plan, we are saying that for us to be part of the BRT, the government has to deal with the transformation of the taxi industry from informal to formal, because we acknowledge that the manner in which we are operating is fragmented.

“All the taxi associations will be dissolved to form co-operatives.

“There will be five co-operatives running the entire taxi industry in Nelson Mandela Bay, and these co-operatives will be contracted to provide scheduled services.

“The municipality will provide us with a schedule of how many times we must transport passengers to a certain area. So, we won’t have to wait for the taxis to fill up before we move on to our destination, because we’ll have to stick to the schedule and be able to rely on the subsidies to compensate for the rest of the money.”

The taxi industry would also later operate buses, the taxi boss and municipal employee said.

Hani added: “We’ve never wanted to own the whole BRT system. We just wanted to be given a bigger stake than what the government was willing to offer. We also want development and safer transport for all our people and we want to assist the government, but they must also assist us.

“And by them providing us with subsidies, they will be assisting us.”

Volvo South Africa refused to comment at this stage.