Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande has asked the Western Cape Provincial Government to suspend plans to rollout Phase 4B of the George Integrated Public Transport Network (GIPTN).
Nzimande made this request after receiving correspondence from Western Cape MEC of Transport Donald Grant, informing him of the intended roll-out of the GIPTN. In the letter, Grant reportedly indicated that George Municipality had skipped the implementation of Phase 4A of the GIPTN as a result of the failure by the municipality to gain the support of UNCEDO Taxi Association and the Taxi Commuter Forum (TCF).
These are the two critical structures representing the taxi operators and the commuting public in the Thembalethu township, where the roll-out of Phase 4A of the project was planned to be implemented before Phase 4B.
“The support of the taxi operators and the commuter forum that are likely to be affected by the rollout of the IPTN’s in particular, and the community in general, is critical for the successful rollout of the systems, said Nzimande.
Grant has since released his own statement in which he calls Nzimande’s statement misleading. According to Grant, the Western Cape Department of Transport is in the process of preparing a detailed response.
“There are ongoing engagements with all affected role players and stakeholders, and my department is confident that we will be able to achieve implementation of services with a committed approach,” he said.
“My department is preparing a comprehensive response to the Minister’s correspondence, and believe that it is prudent and appropriate that we do so before ventilating those issues prematurely through the media.”
Taxi industry buy-in essential
Nzimande noted that while government urges all municipalities supported through the Public Transport Network Grant to accelerate the implementation of IPTNs, this cannot be done at the exclusion of the taxi industry transition, which forms an important component.
“Skipping Phase 4A of the GIPTN Project that will serve the communities of Thembalethu and proceed to (Phase 4B), that include Parkdene, Borcherds, Conville, Lawaaikamp, and Ballotsview, will not only cause divisions amongst the communities, but will further delay the implementation of this project,” he said.
The minister also announced that he would make additional capacity from the Department of Transport available to ensure that the George Integrated Public Transport network challenges are resolved so that the original plan to rollout Phase 4A first and then Phase 4B is adhered to.
Grant highlighted the benefits of GO GEORGE, the first non-metro IPTN, which permanently employs 248 people, of which 154 are drivers. All but two of these employees were previously involved in the minibus and small bus industry in George.
“We must continue to deliver services to citizens in George, and the ongoing work by my department and the Municipality of George together with the National Department of Transport as we work towards the proper implementation of the GO GEORGE bus services,” he said.