Ekurhuleni rapid bus system costs ratepayers many millions to transport minimal passengers

    The City of Ekurhuleni has poured R290 million into the operational deficit of its Harambee Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system over the last three years, placing heavy financial pressure on the City. In reply to a recent DA Parliamentary question about this issue, the Department of Transport labelled the City a token white elephant. The department also said the City of Ekurhuleni has no excuse for the current mess that it finds itself in as the current scale of costs and ridership is unbalanced and unviable and has given it an ultimatum to turn things around or face the consequences. The BRT system is bleeding the City’s finances dry with each passenger costing ratepayers R330 per day! Since its inception in 2016, the BRT has been plagued with slow, delayed construction and an incompetent City that has missed one deadline after the other. The continued failure by appointed contractors to maintain deadlines and their own internal issues has cost residents dearly. The City had to expand the service to 80 buses carrying 20 000 passengers a day in 2018, but after failing to meet this deadline the City was given an ultimatum to scale up to a proper operation of at least 40 buses in 2019 or risk the department invoking Division of Revenue Act powers to withhold transfers. But the City failed once more to meet this deadline. It is clear from the department’s replies that it is highly frustrated with the City’s incompetence. Despite two years of appeals, the City has proved to be incapable of correcting this, resulting in a final warning being communicated to its project team in March 2019 to rebalance costs and revenues and move to viability within six months. Only 18 buses are currently operating, transporting 800 passengers on average, each weekday, resulting in scarce financial resources being utilised to keep the vanity project afloat, while infrastructure crumbles and residents are forced to live with rolling power and water outages and having to drive on pothole riddled roads. The BRT service is also subjected to continuous disruptions due to affected taxi and other public transport operators being in dispute with the City due to non-payment of “loss of compensation” payments for revenue forfeited by the industry due to the buses running. The Parliamentary replies to the DA have also revealed that: The launch of the BRT system in 2017 with just 8 buses was premature and was viewed by the Department of Transport to be on such a suboptimal scale that it could not be seen as a pilot phase. The amount spent on the BRT system is R1 687 509 216. The cost for each kilometer of construction of the BRT system amounts to R73.9 million. The original date that the BRT system had to be fully operational was June 2016. Cash flow challenges and the slow pace of construction by some of the infrastructure contractors not only caused delays but resulted in contractors being terminated. The DA calls on Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina to reassure residents that this poorly planned project will not become a considerable fiscal risk for the City.