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Tuesday Aug 14, 2012

Huge transport shake-up for Durban

Durban's public transport system is set for a major overhaul as the city gears up to implement a multi-billion-rand integrated system.

On the cards for the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network, in four phases over the next 10 years, at a total estimated cost of R25 billion, are:

  • The procurement of 800 extralong articulated buses serving three high-volume corridors: Bridge City (Kwamashu) to the CBD, Bridge City to Pinetown and Bridge City through the new Cornubia housing project to Umhlanga.

  • A rail route from Bridge City to the CBD running through Rossburgh, Isipingo and Umlazi.

  • The widening and upgrading of various roads for the first phase of the project, for which R2.4bn has already been secured from the national Transport Department. The city needs R8.4bn to fully implement the first phase.

  • Dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian walkways.

  • Upgraded bicycle lanes and parking facilities, and a bicycle-rent system from transfer stations, similar to those in London and Paris.

  • Park-and-ride facilities for commuters to park their vehicles and then board public transport.

  • A R1.5bn upgrade by the Passenger Rail Agency of stations and signals along the route to ensure efficient synergy between rail and road transport.

  • New stations and bus terminals.

  • CCTV coverage and enhanced security at all stations, monitored from a control centre.

    The project is similar to the Bus Rapid Transit system pioneered in Cape Town and subsequently introduced in Gauteng.

    The first phase of the project was given the green light after the city's executive committee granted its transport unit the authority to negotiate the acquisition of land needed for the project by private treaty or expropriation.

    The properties, mainly in the northern parts of the city, would be transformed into new bus depots and terminals.

    Thami Manyathi, the eThekwini Transport Authority head, said construction would begin in March, with the aim of having phase one up and running by 2016.

    Manyathi said tenders for building the infrastructure would be advertised after the planning and preliminary design stage was concluded next month.

    The massive project follows surveys done by the municipality to determine travel patterns across the city.

    They showed the northern corridor had the biggest increase in traffic volumes and the most congestion as a result of employment opportunities and new developments in that region.

    Logan Moodley, the city's deputy head of strategic transport planning, said traffic volume in the city between 2001 and 2011 had increased by 10 percent.

    He said the vision of the new model was to improve the city's road infrastructure and create dedicated rights of way for public transport.

    The system would feature dedicated bus lanes along the main routes, stations at regular intervals and terminals at major transport interchanges. Buses the size of the existing People Mover buses and midi buses would be used for feeder routes to transport commuters from residential areas to stations.

    To prevent a possible conflict with taxis, as happened in Joburg and Cape Town, Durban has signed a draft memorandum of understanding with the industry.

    The plan is to reduce the number of taxis on the route by allowing only buses and trains as part of the network.

    "Joburg had worked a compensation model into the contract, paid over a 12-year period. In Cape Town a payout rate was negotiated with the operators and they [operators] can decide to either invest in the new business entity or cash in the money...," said Manyathi.

    "Public transport in the city will have one brand, and the current Durban Transport buses will be part of the system," he added.

    Durban Chamber of Commerce CEO Andrew Layman said there had been overwhelming reaction to the public transport project when it was presented to chamber members recently.

    "It will deliver people to workplaces on time and consistently," he said.

    Layman said that if the system was affordable and efficient, as it promised to be, people would embrace it as their transport of choice.

    eThekwini Metro Management Taxi Council secretary Mdu Xaba said taxi operators should benefit financially from the transport plan.

    "The system should be developed with the taxi operators. The city must not present a rigid plan that says taxis will be completely removed from the roads," he said.

    The Mercury

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