August 30, 2009 / 2:27 PM / 10 years ago

S.Africa launches transport system ahead of 2010

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s government on Sunday launched a rapid bus service ahead of the 2010 soccer World Cup and vowed to work together with the taxi industry that had threatened violent protests against it.

Police keep watch during the launch of a new bus service in Soweto August 30, 2009.South Africa's government on Sunday launched a rapid bus service ahead of the 2010 soccer World Cup and vowed to work together with the taxi industry that had threatened violent protests against it. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Fearful the bus service would hurt their business, the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) threatened a nationwide strike.

It lost a court bid to stop the bus service and said it would discuss the strike at a meeting on Monday.

“There’s a meeting tomorrow and among issues to be discussed is the strike. We will know about the strike after the meeting,” said SANTACO spokesman Thabiso Molelekwa, adding the union was not ruling out talks with the government.

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said no jobs would be lost and the industry would be partners in the system.

“As government, we will ensure that, as a direct result of BRT (bus rapid transit), no legitimate jobs are lost. We will continue our intensive engagement with the taxi industry on many issues including BRT.”

The bus service runs from Soweto, the biggest township in South Africa, to Johannesburg city centre and some of the stadiums that will feature in the 2010 World Cup.

World soccer governing body FIFA has flagged public transport, severely neglected during decades of apartheid rule, as a key challenge South Africa needs to overcome as it prepares to host next year’s World Cup tournament.

An estimated 450,000 foreign tourists are expected at the event, which takes place in African for the first time.

South Africa is investing 170 billion rand in transport for visitors during the soccer tournament, including an integrated ticketing system in several types of transport, including rail, buses and mini-bus taxi services.

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