Taxi own­ers stand to get R805m and shares in bus firm

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ANNA COX

SOME Joburg minibus taxi own­ers stand to share a whop­ping R805 mil­lion among them­selves.

This will be com­pen­sa­tion for hav­ing their ve­hi­cles scrapped to make way for the R2.2 bil­lion phase 1C of the City of Joburg’s Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Tran­sit (BRT) sys­tem down Louis Botha Av­enue.

This is a sim­i­lar sys­tem to two other bus op­er­at­ing com­pa­nies which have been es­tab­lished since the BRT sys­tem was in­tro­duced in Joburg in 2009.

Pio­trans was es­tab­lished in 2011 to op­er­ate phase 1A, which runs be­tween Thokoza Park in Rockville, Soweto, and the Joburg CBD. Dit­samaiso op­er­ates the Phase 1B route, be­tween Soweto and the Joburg CBD via No­ord­ge­sig, Corona­tionville, West­dene and Park­town.

It took three years of ne­go­ti­a­tions and plan­ning to es­tab­lish Pio­trans, which in­volved over 300 taxi op­er­a­tors and a 12-year con­tract.

A chief ex­ec­u­tive and a board of di­rec­tors will be ap­pointed to run the com­pany.

The Rea Vaya phase 1C route – be­tween the Joburg in­ner-city, Alexan­dra and Sand­ton – is cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped and bus op­er­a­tions are ex­pected to come on stream by Oc­to­ber 2018.

The op­er­a­tions of the 17km BRT route will be run by a bus op­er­at­ing com­pany con­sist­ing mainly of minibus taxi own­ers, the ma­jor­ity of whom are mem­bers of the Alexan­dra Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion (ATA) and the Alexan­dra, Rand­burg, Midrand and Sand­ton Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion (Arm­sta), whose ve­hi­cles are cur­rently op­er­at­ing along Louis Botha Av­enue.

This means the minibus taxi op­er­a­tors, who will also re­lin­quish their taxi op­er­at­ing li­cences, will be­come share­hold­ers of the new com­pany. Many of the minibus taxi driv­ers are ex­pected to be trained to op­er­ate the 141 ar­tic­u­lated and rigid BRT buses to be de­ployed. Pri­vately-owned pub­lic bus com­pany Putco, which also cur­rently op­er­ates on the af­fected route, may also be ex­pected to have a share­hold­ing in the stillto-be formed com­pany.

Lisa Sef­tel, the city’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of trans­port, says ne­go­ti­a­tions with the po­ten­tially af­fected minibus taxi own­ers and bus op­er­a­tors re­gard­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of the new bus op­er­at­ing com­pany are on­go­ing.

She said plans were also in place to raise the re­quired funds for the com­pen­sa­tion of the af­fected minibus taxi op­er­a­tors. Sef­tel said com­pen­sa­tion amounts will be sub­ject to ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“Yes, of course, there is a plan in place to raise the money for com­pen­sa­tion,” she said.

Sef­tel added that agree­ments on how many taxis will be scrapped were still be­ing fi­nalised. “The num­ber of minibus taxi own­ers who will be af­fected by the third phase is still to be fi­nalised,” said Sef­tel.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions with all par­ties are on­go­ing

The re­moval of minibus taxis and Putco buses from the phase 1C route will con­trib­ute to the re­duc­tion of traf­fic con­ges­tion and a cleaner en­vi­ron­ment.

“Once ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­cluded, there will be a han­dover or tran­si­tion pe­riod dur­ing which a bus op­er­at­ing com­pany is set up and com­pen­sa­tion can be paid out,” she said.

The two 12-year agree­ments have re­sulted in about 500 minibus taxis be­ing scrapped and minibus taxi op­er­at­ing li­cences re­lin­quished.

Jab­u­lani Nt­shangase, spokesper­son for the Alexan­dra Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion, said noth­ing had been de­cided.

“We are still in talks and ne­go­ti­a­tions with the city over pay­ments and es­tab­lish­ing the com­pany.

“But noth­ing has been de­cided yet,” he said.

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