Bumper pay day for taxi own­ers

Driv­ers to be trained to op­er­ate BRT buses

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ANNA COX @an­na­cox

MINIBUS taxi own­ers stand to share a whop­ping R850 mil­lion among them­selves. This will be the com­pen­sa­tion that own­ers stand to re­ceive for al­low­ing their ve­hi­cles to be scrapped in or­der to make way for the R2.2 bil­lion phase 1C of the City of Joburg’s Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Tran­sit (BRT) 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 more than 300 taxi op­er­a­tors. A chief ex­ec­u­tive and a board of di­rec­tors will be es­tab­lished 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 the af­fected Louis Botha Av­enue route.

This means that 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 still-to-be­formed com­pany.

Lisa Sef­tel, the city’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of trans­port, said ne­go­ti­a­tions with the po­ten­tially af­fected minibus taxi own­ers and bus op­er­a­tors re­gard­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of the new bu­sop­er­at­ing com­pany were 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. She 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 in the en­gage­ment and ne­go­ti­a­tion with the minibus taxi in­dus­try,” said Sef­tel.

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

“Once these 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 added.

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

Alexandra Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion spokesper­son Jab­u­lani Nt­shangase said no fi­nal de­ci­sion had been taken but that so far, they were happy with the talks and ne­go­ti­a­tions. “No fi­nal de­ci­sion has been reached as yet,” he em­pha­sised.

Com­pen­sa­tion amounts will be sub­ject to ne­go­ti­a­tions

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