NELSON Mandela Bay's highly anticipated Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS) was launched yesterday amid much fanfare, but the metro's taxi industry gave a stern warning that the project still has to overcome many challenges if it is to be a success.
Mthuthuzeli Madwara, chairman of taxi cooperative Laphum'ilanga, the body representing the metro's 10 taxi associations, said while many obstacles had been overcome, many more still needed to be tackled.
"There are challenges, the loss of income to the taxi industry on our routes being the main one. We want to address this so that we are clear on what the payment processes are. A lot of things still need to be sorted out as far as the IPTS is concerned, but we will address this during the pilot project which will take place for the next six months to a year, as was agreed on."
The roll-out of the IPTS has been stalled since the 2010 Fifa World Cup, after the municipality and taxi associations disagreed on how it should be operated.
Madwara said while members of the taxi industry applauded the launch of the R1-billion public transport project, many had mixed emotions about it.
"We are celebrating but it is painful to think about those who have died in the process [during taxi violence in protest at the plan] leading up to it. There are still hurdles that we need to pass and we must also expect that there will be mistakes as it starts," he said.
Madwara said an effective and affordable public transport system was critical, as the majority of people spent up to 36% of their salaries on public transport.
Yesterday mayor Zanoxolo Wayile said the launch was an important occasion. The pilot project is named Libhongolethu, which means "Our Pride".
"It has been the source of controversy for some time and there have been disagreements, but in the end the aim was to deliver a transport system that is affordable, safe, effective and efficient," Wayile said.
The launch kicked off at City Hall yesterday morning where the articulated buses, which will be used in the IPTS, transported municipal officials, dignitaries and journalists to the Uitenhage Town Hall.
Litho Suka, whip for the portfolio committee on transport, and Ibrahim Seedat, director for public transport policies at the national Transport Department, also attended the launch.
Wayile thanked his predecessor, former mayor Nondumiso Maphazi, who had been instrumental in introducing the project.
Deputy mayor Nancy Sihlwayi said it would take another two weeks to finalise the operating licence before the buses would officially be on the road, in time for the festive season.
She also thanked the Algoa Bus Company, which helped train taxi operators and conductors to drive the new articulated buses.
The pilot project has also received a R638-million boost from national Treasury to ensure its success. The money will go towards the construction of bus stations, among other things. The money must be spent within seven months or the municipality could forfeit it. The metro earlier lost a R230-million grant given by Treasury two years ago for the IPTS, because it failed to spend it.
The seven IPTS routes that will run during the pilot phase are:
- PE CBD to Kempston Road to Harrower Road and back to the CBD (also known as the Triangle);
- PE CBD to Coega;
- PE CBD to NMMU;
- PE CBD to the airport;
- PE CBD to Greenacres;
- Uitenhage CBD to Despatch; and
- Uitenhage CBD to KwaNobuhle.
All 25 articulated buses, which were bought for R100-million in 2010, will be used. Fares are the same as Algoa Bus rates, starting from about R8 a ticket for early morning passengers, to R11, depending on the route.