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New shareholders sign Rea Vaya Phase 1B contract

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More than 150 minibus taxi owners became shareholders of a multimillion rand mainstream public transport venture when they, the City of Johannesburg and bus company Putco signed a landmark Rea Vaya Bus Operating Company Agreement (BOCA) at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on 30 June.
Through the 12-year agreement, the taxi operators and Putco have become shareholders of Ditsamaiso, a joint venture that will from August 1 operate the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system along the Phase 1B routes.

The taxi operators hold a 75% stake in the joint venture, while Putco owns the rest of the shareholding;
The contract is worth R160.3-million in the first year;
The agreement, approved during a council meeting on Thursday, was also signed by acting City Manager Dr Refik Bismilla and Pascal Moloi, interim chairman of the Rea Vaya Bus Operating Company;
The agreement replaces the temporary arrangement that has been in place since 2013.
The signing was presided over by Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Transport Councillor Christine Walters, who praised all parties for their commitment to improving public transport in the City. MMC Walters said the agreement was a milestone in the City’s drive to provide world-class public transport service.

“This is a major milestone in the transformation of public transport in the City. I can’t even imagine the work you [the taxi operators and Putco] have done [since the BRT project was first mooted]. You were pioneers in this painful process of transformation. We didn’t always agree but today I am honoured and humbled by the progress we have made,” she said.

The MMC said the agreement would be implemented from August 1 to give the board of the new company time to ensure a smooth transition. The new joint venture company will operate Rea Vaya services along Phase 1B routes, including the trunk route from Thokoza Park to Parktown, as well as feeder and complementary services to and from Cresta, Flora Centre, Yeoville, Pimville, Dobsonville and Mapetla.

Consultations for the creation of the Bus Operating Company (BOC) started in 2010 with 365 taxi operators, Putco and Metrobus. When agreement was not reached by the end of 2013, an interim BOCA was signed and an interim BOC set up. The interim BOC signed an agreement with Piotrans, which has been managing Rea Vaya operations since then.

MMC for Economic Development Councillor Ruby Mathang said the agreement was another major move in the City’s quest to roll out improved public transport in the city.

“We are reaching out to all parts of the city. We intend to extend reliable public transport and no part of the city will be left untouched by this transformation. For the city to thrive it has to provide efficient public transport, otherwise it is doomed,” MMC Mathang said.

The agreement means that the taxi operators and Putco will cease to operate their services along the specified trunk, feeder and complementary routes – making Rea Vaya the sole public transport provider. Peter Mabe, a representative of the taxi associations, thanked the City for involving them in the project.

“Change is painful, especially if you don’t understand it. But with this partnership, our industry has benefited a lot. My appeal to the new company is make sure this business does not fail.”

Andrew Sefala, a Senior Manager at Putco, concurred.

“We were working in silos but now we are learning and growing in the transport sector. Taxis are now part of the mainstream of public transport. Owners and drivers have been empowered in the process,” he said.