‘Shape up or lose bus rapid tran­sit fund­ing’

• Roll-out of bus rapid trans­port is be­hind sched­ule

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Khulekani Magubane Par­lia­men­tary Writer magubanek@busi­nesslive.co.za

The De­part­ment of Trans­port has given mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties an ul­ti­ma­tum: shape up or lose bus rapid tran­sit fund­ing. Cities have un­til the end of 2018 to im­ple­ment phase one of the bus net­work master plan. Fail­ure to do so would re­sult in them los­ing state fund­ing.

The De­part­ment of Trans­port has given mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties an ul­ti­ma­tum: shape up or lose bus rapid tran­sit (BRT) fund­ing.

Cities have un­til the end of 2018 to im­ple­ment phase one of the BRT net­work master plan, fail­ing which they will lose state fund­ing.

That could mean that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have to fi­nance their BRT roll-out from their own bud­gets, which are al­ready stretched.

De­part­ment of Trans­port of­fi­cials were in Par­lia­ment on Thurs­day to brief MPs on the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on trans­port and to out­line the chal­lenges in rolling out BRT projects in cities, most of which are be­hind in im­ple­ment­ing phase one.

The state ini­ti­ated and funded BRT as a way of bol­ster­ing pub­lic trans­port and also to make it ef­fi­cient and af­ford­able. Re­search has found that the av­er­age city com­muter can use as many as four modes of trans­port to travel to work. The state wanted to re­duce this by us­ing BRT to ease con­ges­tion caused by the use of dif­fer­ent types of trans­port.

But cities have not been able to rise to the oc­ca­sion in im­ple­ment­ing phase one of BRT.

Khibi Manana, act­ing chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at the De­part­ment of Trans­port, said mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties had been en­cour­aged to work closely with provin­cial au­thor­i­ties on BRT projects.

“We give fund­ing and tem­plates that cities need to com­ply with,” said Manana.

Ibrahim See­dat, project man­ager for the in­te­grated pub­lic trans­port net­work plan, high­lighted ca­pac­ity chal­lenges at mu­nic­i­pal level that re­sulted in the fail­ure of coun­cils to im­ple­ment the BRT pro­gramme. These in­cluded a re­volv­ing door of staff at key po­si­tions such as mu­nic­i­pal man­ager or chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, which made it dif­fi­cult to see projects through.

“The big­gest Achilles heel is cities’ ca­pac­ity to con­tinue the projects. Cities may have had five mu­nic­i­pal man­agers and that means you have to re­set pro­cesses re­gard­ing pro­cure­ment and ap­provals for phases in the projects,” said See­dat.

BRT should have been op­er­a­tional at phase one level in 10 cities, but had been rolled out in only a few. The pro­gramme should be dou­bling rid­er­ship now and mov­ing on to the next phase, as many cities al­ready had BRT in their legacy plan­ning, See­dat said.

“The acid test is the next 16 months. By the end of De­cem­ber 2018, cities should be run­ning what they were sup­posed to run by this year.

“They need to show that they have some­thing rid­ing vi­ably


and have ser­vices to build upon,” See­dat said.

Son­wabo Gqegqe, a spe­cial­ist in mu­nic­i­pal gover­nance and in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal re­la­tions at the South African Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (Salga), came to the de­fence of coun­cils and said the as­so­ci­a­tion was com­fort­able with cities’ BRT progress de­spite chal­lenges. “We at Salga be­lieve that over­sight must recog­nise that cities [are] dif­fer­ent. We are ex­cited to be part of ... cre­at­ing knowl­edge plat­forms to as­sist them. For in­stance, Buf­falo City could have done well if its ini­tia­tives were not sti­fled by lit­i­ga­tion,” he said.

Salga was con­fi­dent all af­fected cities would be ready to ad­vance to the next BRT phase by De­cem­ber 2018, he said.


Not so rapid: The first phase of the bus rapid trans­port sys­tem should have been op­er­a­tional in 10 South African cities by now, but has been rolled out by only a few, the De­part­ment of Trans­port says.

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