March 27, 2009

Talks on IRT Run Into a Brick Wall (Cape Town)

A communication breakdown between the City of Cape Town and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) has crippled the consultation process around the Integrated Rapid Transport (IRT) system, with both parties admitting that talks may have run into a brick wall.

Santaco said it was not consulted during the formulation of the project and that it understood very little about the city’s ambitious transport plan.

The National Taxi Association has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the IRT system and is at loggerheads with the city over its implementation.

The city outlined the IRT system on Thursday at a media conference, discussing its plans for the first phase of the project. Construction for the first phase – which will cost around R1,3-billion – has already started, with more scheduled for next month.

At a poorly attended members’ meeting on Thursday Santaco, in turn, stated its grievances with the project, saying rumours that it had backed the system were untrue.

Kylie Hatton, city media manager, said the system would be beneficial to all sectors of the public transport industry, by creating more jobs and regulating the mini-bus taxi industry.

She said that while the city and national government would provide the capital subsidy for vehicle purchases, the system would be governed by public transport operators.

The IRT refers to a system that involves all aspects of public transport, including rail, buses and minibus taxis. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is one of the system’s main components, and refers to the buses which will have dedicated, raised bus lanes in the middle of roads and would dock at stations across the city.

The system will include 18m-long articulated buses which will run along main routes. Feeder services of smaller vehicles will take commuters from residential areas to the trunk service.

Hatton said the new system would lead to better working conditions for the taxi industry.

However, while some members of the industry were willing to co-operate, some were not “willing to listen”, she said.

But, Santaco, the only taxi association officially recognised by government, said they were in the dark about IRT.

Santaco could neither support nor oppose the system, as the city had not fully explained it to them, said secretary-general Philip Taaibosch.

“We (taxi operators) have built a market on the routes we use. We marketed the taxi industry on our own, with no support from government. We voted for this government, but we mustn’t be afraid of showing them their weaknesses.

“We were never treated the same as the bus and train services; they have discriminated against us.”

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Talks on IRT Run Into a Brick Wall

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