Yesterday’s signing of agreements between the Department of Transport and Public Works and the George Municipality that paves the way for much-improved public transport in the Southern Cape town marked the achievement of a milestone for government.
The agreements signed by George Mayor Charles Standers and me are a first for South Africa.
As a result of the function of implementing public transport being devolved to local government and due to the resource constraints faced at this sphere of government, the Provincial Government has entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the Municipality of George to jointly perform the function of providing a safe, reliable and scheduled public transport service.
The intergovernmental and financial agreements are an important step in a process that will see the existing local public transport operators coming together to form a corporate entity that will be contracted by the George Municipality, with our support, and be responsible for the delivery of services.
For the next 12 years, my department has pledged the bulk of the funding required for the first contract period. This funding is for the upgrading of roads to appropriate standards, the provision of new infrastructure and for operational subsidy support.
The next step in this process involves finalising the operator contract and concluding agreements with current minibus taxi and bus operators. To this end, the operators, drivers, mechanics and others associated with the present services will receive training so they can fulfil their contractor role.
The process should thus enable the new George municipal public transport service to commence operating initially between the town centre and Saarsveld campus of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University early in 2012, followed by the rollout of further routes across George from mid-2012.
The objectives of this George Mobility Project comply fully with the requirements of National Transport Policy and National Land Transport Act 2009.
The promulgation and introduction of the NLTA changed the landscape, in that it placed the responsibility for the provision of public transport service delivery squarely on the shoulders of the municipal authorities. The new legislation does provide in Section 12 that the Province, or an adjacent municipality, may take joint responsibility with a municipality.
This is a major milestone reached and one that has implications not only for George, but for all Category B Municipalities.