Depot roars into life

23 November 2012

depot topThe City's executive mayor Parks Tau unveiling the new Rea Vaya Meadowlands depot in Soweto

The state-of-the-art, environment-friendly, custom-made Rea Vaya bus depot in Soweto – the first of its kind – is finished and has been opened for business.


EXCITEMENT lingered in the air when the long-awaited R131,1-million eco-friendly Rea Vaya depot was opened on Thursday, 22 November. The state-of-the-art facility occupies eight hectares of land in Meadowlands, Soweto.


It comprises a bus parking area, an administration and maintenance building, underground fuel tanks, and a bus wash area where the vehicles can either be hand-washed or automatically washed. It has the capacity for 270 buses and at presents houses PioTrans’s 143-strong fleet.


Joburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau, who attended the opening ceremony with members of his mayoral committee, named the administration and maintenance building after two pioneers of public transport transformation – Sipho Mtambo and Sicelo Mabaso. "The success of Rea Vaya is a result of leadership from the taxi industry [which] played a pivotal role in setting up the system," said Tau.


Mtambo was the president and founding member of the Top Six Taxi Association. He died on 20 March 2010 after a short illness. Mabaso was the chairperson of Top Six Taxi Association and it was in this leadership role that he led the taxi industry over three years. He became the first chairperson of the Rea Vaya Phase 1A bus operating company, PioTrans.


Under his leadership, the taxi organisation spent more than a year in negotiations with the City of Joburg regarding the roll out of Rea Vaya. Out of this, taxi industry operators became owners of a public transport bus operating company for the first time in South Africa. Mabaso died in June 2011.


Tau, who was taken on a tour of the premises by Rea Vaya officials, was impressed by the latest developments. "I am happy to say that on the basis of reports received, we can truly say we have capacity to run a world-class Bus Rapid Transit in South Africa. Our achievements are real and not far-fetched; there is hope we can do better," said Tau.


There are plenty of environmentally friendly features at the depot. For example, the lights work on sensors and automatically switch off when a person leaves a room and the lights are no longer needed. Also, a robust, mild steel sheeting has been used for the roof and cladding to help with climate control. A noise wall barrier has been erected around the premises, the roof structure allows direct sunlight into the building to reduce the need for lighting, and water is recycled for reuse in the buildings and the wash bay.


Rehana Moosajee, the member of the mayoral committee for transportation, said the opening of the depot was a major milestone in improving transport services in the city. "The new bus depot will successfully meet the demands of its increasing service and passenger base," she said. "It is a realisation of a dream from 2006, so – you know – to finally see it in operation is fantastic."


An elated, MK Mohlahla, the chairperson of the PioTrans board, said completion of the depot was a sign that they had the capability to do the unthinkable. "We are really excited about this depot, it has finally came into fruition," said Mohlahla. "I am happy to say that it is possible to achieve such a feat. The services must be expanded to improve people’s lives."

Over 350 jobs were created in the construction phase. The new facility has also attracted local and international visitors during construction and will be a source of pride not just to the City and PioTrans but also to the surrounding community.


After the City identified a suitable place for the depot, the chosen land was donated by the Gauteng department of local government and housing for this development in 2009. Work on the depot began in 2011.


The planning stages comprised design of the depot, environmental authorisation, and obtaining approvals from the Council of Geoscience as the site is bounded by dolomite soil. Because of this soil, special designs had to be incorporated in the form of raft foundations. These prevent water seepage, which is necessary to avoid sinkholes.


During construction, a temporary bus depot was built over 1ha of the site to accommodate Rea Vaya BRT operations in 2010. This temporary bus depot has been in operation since then; parts of the structures were demolished this year as construction of the formal bus depot progressed.


Improvements have also been made to Forbes Road, the street on which the depot is located. There are now traffic calming measures that will enforce acceptable levels of speed in a local street environment.


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