After experiencing several delays during the planning and design phase of the Rustenburg bus rapid transport (BRT) system in 2013, the Rustenburg local municipality (RLM) has reported that construction of the first phase of the public transport system had started, with operation targeted for the first half of 2016.

Thus far, R683-million had been spent on the system, dubbed Yarona, with R900-million allocated for 2014/15 and R1-billion budgeted for 2015/16.

The municipality noted at a stakeholder forum on Tuesday that construction of the first section of Corridor A along the R104 had started and would be extended to include additional taxi lay-bys and pedestrian paths. This section was due for completion at the end of March.

Construction of the bus lanes on north-east Corridor B along the R510 was also under way with detours in place, while work would start later this year on the Central Station and the 13 BRT stations along the trunk route.

Bus stop and shelter designs were currently being finalised for the feeder routes, while work on the design for depot and bus holding areas would start later this year.

Some 305 bus stops were to be erected along the 13 Phase 1 routes and would generally be located on both sides of the road.

Meanwhile, as nine taxi associations had been identified as being affected by Phase 1 and 2 of the BRT system, the municipality had established a Taxi Negotiation Forum (TNF), comprising representatives from each association, to negotiate compensation and the formation of a bus operating contract for former taxi drivers.

Further, a memorandum of understanding had been concluded between RLM and the affected Bojanala bus company, confirming the start of an engagement process between the parties.

“It is expected that this process will take another 12 months to complete,” RLM said.

According to the municipality, over 600 local jobs had been created during the initial phase of the projct, with the development of a labour registration database currently under way.

In addition, a labour project steering committee was formed to ensure that the labour recruitment was equitable across the local municipal wards, and that small, medium-sized and micro enterprise subcontractors were procured from those wards, where possible.