With exactly a year to the World Cup kick-off, the controversy over the Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) system has emerged as the single biggest threat to Cape Town’s staging a successful tournament.

While President Jacob Zuma visits Green Point Stadium today to mark the one-year countdown, Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele was expected to be locked in talks in Gauteng with the taxi industry, which has threatened to make the Western Cape ungovernable if the IRT is rolled out.

In addition to the problem with the taxi industry, two more key challenges need to be resolved:

  • The province’s event-specific transport plan is yet to be finalised.
  • A R91-million tender related to 2010 transport is under scrutiny by the auditor-general.

There is also no clear indication whether the first phase of the IRT system, the nucleus of the 2010 transport network, will be implemented in time for the World Cup. But the government says it is confident that the plan will go ahead.

Ndebele was expected to meet the taxi bosses at Gallagher Estate, Gauteng, today to resume talks over the implementation of the contentious system.

Zuma had called on taxi bosses to halt all protest action before the April election, promising to meet them as soon as the new government was formed.

Zuma’s visit to the Green Point Stadium, for a tour of the construction site later today, will be followed by a 2010 “readiness update” by local organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan.

Talks between city authorities and taxi drivers deadlocked last year over the implementation of Phase 1A of the IRT – from Table View into the city.

This was followed by weeks of large-scale chaos and violence ac-ross the Western Cape.

In spite of this, the city resumed infrastructural work on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system – a move that further infuriated taxi operators on the West Coast and in Du Noon. The BRT forms part of the IRT plan.

On Wednesday National Taxi Alliance (NTA) provincial spokesperson Mvuyisile Mente described the IRT as “a killer”.

He said there would be large-scale destruction if the system was implemented.

“We don’t want BRT and IRT; implementing them would be asking for trouble,” said Mente.

“BRT is a killer and will result in violence across the province if they go ahead with it.”

Speaking before today’s meeting, Phillip Taaibosch, chairperson of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), said the IRT in its present form was “completely unacceptable”.

He said taxi operators would only agree on a new transport system if the government devised a structured plan in consultation with the industry’s roleplayers.

“We won’t buy in to it until we see a viable plan,” said Taaibosch. “BRT is not just unacceptable, it’s completely unacceptable.”

He said today’s meeting would be the first IRT meeting with a government minister since they had heard about the proposed new public transport system last year.

Transport spokesperson Sam Mon-areng said a statement on the outcome would be issued later today.

Asked whether the IRT would be ready in time for the World Cup, Pieter Cronje, the city’s 2010 spokesperson, said: “The city will have a system ready to transport visitors and spectators from the airport to the city centre and from there to the stadium.”

Thami Manyathi, head of the provincial Transport and Public Works Department, said the department was negotiating with the taxi industry and other service pro-viders to make sure the IRT was ready.

He said there was “no cause for concern” over the R91m tender awarded to US firm Games Transportation Systems Services (GTSS), to devise a “solid” transport plan for the World Cup.

“We will only finalise the plan after the final draw in December,” he said. “That’s when we will know exactly how many visitors to expect and how many teams will come to the Western Cape.”

Manyathi said GTSS was the only company in the country able to devise a 2010 event-specific transport plan.

World football body Fifa says it is confident that the government and host cities would stage a successful World Cup. But it has a contingency plan to to transport spectators through Match, its hospitality service provider.

PUBLICATION: www.iol.co.za (Cape Argus) (Page 1)
AUTHOR: Clayton Barnes
DATED: 11th June 2009