GO!Durban reaches major milestones

GO!Durban the eThekwini Municipality’s new integrated rapid public transport network, which is poised to provide a world-class solution for the city’s future public transport needs, has reached a number of significant milestones in 2015.

Construction of the provincial road MR577 cutting through a hill in KwaDabeka in the background. The dedicated bus lane can been seen in the centre of the road on the construction area and to the top right of the photograph, a traffic bridge is being constructed.

The new system, which promises to ensure improved mobility for all, aims to get Durban in line with successful cities world-wide where public transport is an integral part of the economic and social functioning that moves them forward. A number of years in the planning and 20 months in construction, these milestones demonstrate the progress being made towards a “Go Live” date.

At a media briefing held to update media on the development the Mayor, Cllr James Nxumalo, and senior managers of the eThekwini Transport Authority and GO!Durban project detailed the city’s progress on the new public transport network.

In April 2014, after four years of planning, construction began on the first corridor or dedicated bus lane from Bridge City, in KwaMashu to the Pinetown CBD.

“The construction on this first route has required adaptation of existing infrastructure which has meant that the project has not been without its own set of challenges. However, the eThekwini Transport Authority is pleased with the progress that has been made so far, and that operation on this first route will be a reality in the next 16 months,” said Nxumalo.

Milestones in 2015 included:

The completion of the St John’s Road underpass in Pinetown at the intersection with Josiah Gumede Avenue (Old Main Road), which required narrowing of the underpass for the dedicated bus lane and expanding the deck of the intersection to widen the road for mixed use traffic.

The beginning of a major interchange near the MR577/Newlands Expressway intersection, which includes three ramps and a bridge.

The beginning of an underpass under the M25 linking the Bridge City precinct with the Phoenix Industrial area.

The completion of a number of station platforms.

The upgrade of the current traffic management control centre which will provide CCTV coverage of the IRPTN corridors and main arterials, monitoring of buses and the safety and security surveillance at the stations.

The beginning of construction of a bridge over the N2 north of the Mount Edgecombe and N2 interchange which will eventually form part of the C9 route or corridor from Umhlanga to Bridge City in KwaMashu. This is a move made by city leaders, which effectively saves R180 million by utilising the current contractor developing the N2/M41 interchange.

Regular engagements by senior management with various stakeholder groups across the municipality have taken place.

Twelve formal engagements with community, subcontractors and businesses in the affected wards of the first route with a further three to be completed in the next two months.

Two engagements, jointly hosted with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), in Pinetown where the work has been the most intense this year to update businesses and residents on developments.

A further two engagements to showcase and discuss opportunities available for investors in the project, jointly hosted by the DCCI and GO!Durban.

A public transport drivers’ summit attended by 500 delegates, at which the industry was able to address concerns and issues, and come up with resolutions, which are in the process of being addressed.

“While significant progress has been made from an infrastructural point of view, this progress cannot be seen in isolation,” said Nxumalo. “GO!Durban is more than a transport project – rather it is an infrastructural programme that will restructure our society and connect communities that have not been connected because of historic divisive urban planning.

“The multi-billion rand infrastructure is a platform for development to build around and onto: to create densified residential and commercially viable urban nodes. The tons of soil, kilometres of asphalt, concrete and steel, interchanges and bridges may be technically impressive but it is meaningless if they don’t provide societal restructuring. The more important part of this journey begins now, so that when the corridor opens we are able to provide connectivity for all – including for old people, children and the disabled. We need this as we strive for a more socially cohesive city.”

Head of the eThekwini Transport Authority, Thami Manyathi, gave an overview on the whole project saying: “We are close to having broken the back of construction. We have been met with a few unexpected and some expected challenges along the way, but believe we have been able to address these timeously and systematically to ensure we have a link between the PINK area and Pinetown by the end of 2016.”

“Importantly linked to the construction programme is how a municipality is using this major development to support its mandate to stimulate economic development, develop much needed skills and provide employment,” said Nxumalo.

GO!Durban programme manager, Mabuyi Mhlanga, said that to address these requirements a GO!Durban Empowerment Charter was created and launched at a workshop to various stakeholders in October last year.

“This is series of additional specifications added by the GO!Durban project to all contracts awarded on the project. The workshop launch event created an opportunity for stakeholders to come to grips with the empowerment of the project and how it is set up to support local communities and businesses through a share in the equity, skills development, enterprise development and corporate social investment or socio-economic development.”

With reference to this the ETA confirmed that five major construction tenders were awarded in 2014, with two additional contracts that were awarded on the back of current contracts on provincial roads with the KZN Department of Transport and with Tongaat Hulett Developments that dovetail with the network. This amounts to a R3 billion investment in the GO!Durban project so far.

Mhlanga confirmed that of this amount R890 million has was awarded to black owned companies. Furthermore R367m of the total amount has been allocated to enterprise development. GO!Durban has been developing a skills database in each affected ward, which is providing the city and the contractors with information on the skills available in the affected wards and employing from it.

More than 10 454 employment opportunities (including 1 464 women, 5 160 youth and 81 disabled) have been created for communities from the affected wards along this first corridor. Contractors on the project are obliged to use local SMMEs to further build capacity within these smaller enterprises. Parallel to this are a number of programmes being run by the contractors to further develop the skills of the labour on the project through on-site training programmes. In addition the ETA has designed an incubation programme to assist start up enterprises in developing skills readiness for future GO!Durban business opportunities. This will be implemented in the new year.

“The city is working to ensure the maximum involvement of the current public transport operators in the planning of their participation in the new integrated rapid public transport system, “ said Manyathi. “Before we had even started construction, in fact four years before that, the ETA began its process of consultation with the mini-bus taxi and bus operator leadership.

“In February 2014 an MOA was signed with the taxi leadership representing operators in the first corridor being developed, which outlined the roles and responsibilities of the parties going forward to plan the industry’s participation in the new system. The signing of the MOA with bus operators is due to take place in the next few months. Technical advisers were appointed for the taxi industry in November last year and they will support the industry in future negotiations. Mediators will soon be appointed for the negotiations, in the interest of all parties being protected through the process,” said Manyathi.

Further to this and in an effort to engage with public transport drivers to support them in preparation for the new public transport network requirements, the eThekwini Transport Authority held a public transport drivers’ summit in August this year.

Stakeholders representing drivers and owners of metered taxis, scholar transport, mini-bus taxis, private buses, driving schools and others directly involved and associated with this sector such as the Department of Transport, gathered to discuss important issues for this sector.

The summit was the first of its kind for the municipality, and marks the beginning of future and ongoing engagements with drivers from this sector. The objective of the summit was to create a platform for discussing a range of issues, which affect public transport drivers, Manyathi said.

Resolutions that arose from the summit included the need for a steering committee to be appointed to look at the possibility of creating a forum to ensure regular discussion between the sector and government; that a task team be appointed to look into the formation of a professional body for the industry which could begin to provide industry support and insights to the ETA; investigating the creation of a supportive environment in which the drivers can perform their duties, and the convening of a further engagement to deal with the development of better professional partnerships between public transport owners and drivers.

“All in all we are happy with the progress of the development so far, and we also understand some of the frustrations especially citizens in Pinetown have experienced. But these are temporary frustrations that will be soon forgotten once the new system is operational. We look forward to the new year where we will be drilling down to the operational issues that need to be in place before implementation.” said Nxumalo.

Construction will halt for the holidays from December 15 and resume in the new year on January 8.

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