Taking the bus to economic development

Taking the bus to economic development

By 2015, hundreds of buses will transport an estimated 200 000 passengers a day on the new Rustenburg Rapid Transport (RRT) routes.

The Rustenburg Rapid Transport (RRT) project was officially launched in July by Mpho Khunou, the executive mayor of Rustenburg. Currently in the initial planning and design phase, R3 billion will be invested over the next four years to deliver a transformed public transport service by 2015.

With a population of over 500 000, Rustenburg is one of the fastest growing towns in South Africa. It is one of 12 municipalities that received a conditional public transport infrastructure and systems grant (PTISG) from the national department of transport and national treasury.

The RRT project went through an initial feasibility phase in 2010. Based on this, funding was secured and the project is now in the design and planning phase that will last until the end of 2012. After that, the project will move on to the construction phase that will continue until its launch in 2015.

According to Sara Butchart, RRT communications manager, additional lanes and stations will be constructed on the BRT section of the system, but existing roads are mainly being used.

“We will adapt existing infrastructure to form part of the RRT. What we are doing in Rustenburg is not just a BRT (bus rapid transport) system. We are aiming for an integrated transport solution that will include various modes of transport to make it possible for the community of Rustenburg to move around in the most convenient manner.”

The system includes BRT corridors into the town centre, as well as direct bus routes and feeder routes. There will also be walkways and bicycle paths to promote safe movement of people. “We are looking at a fully integrated system to support and boost the economic growth of our municipality,” says Khunou.

At this stage it is envisaged that a mixed fleet of low-entry 18 m articulated and 12 m standard buses will be used on the trunk and direct routes, all to be universally accessible and with doors on both sides of the buses for maximum flexibility. The tender requirements will comply with all government procurement and supply chain management requirements. Preference would be given to local manufacturers.

The vehicles will meet Euro 4 emission standards, but the alternative technologies available at the time of ordering the vehicles will be investigated and evaluated. The current work plan envisages the vehicles will be ordered by 2013.

The vehicles will be similar to those used in other rapid transport systems, but with characteristics that meet the specific needs of the integrated public transport system in Rustenburg. Butchart says the municipality is unique in the sense that it has a big population of mine workers who need to be transported to and from the mines at different times of the night and day, because they work shifts.

“We will not have the same situation as Johannesburg, for example, where the buses are used heavily on weekdays in peak periods, mornings and afternoons, and are less used during the day and weekends. This will make it easier for our project to break even. We will have passengers throughout the day. But we also need to be realistic. Some of the more rural routes will need to be subsidised,” she says.

Butchart says negotiations are currently underway with the local taxi industry. Operators need to register and will receive preference when jobs become available. She says that she is happy with the progress so far. “We have found the taxi operators to be well-organised and they are very good business people. So far everything is progressing well and we are optimistic about the outcome of the process.”

A unique aspect of the RRT project is a programme called Transport Rustenburg Incubation Programme (TRIP). This would see a number of graduates shadow the consulting team as the project is developed, through to 2015, following which they would take up positions in RRT operations.

Rustenburg is the first medium-sized municipality in South Africa to embark on the development of a RRT system. Butchart says the town will serve as an example for others to follow. “There are also many centres in the rest of Africa that are interested in what we are doing,” she says.

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