25 June 2010
Thousands of fans have been streaming off the City of Johannesburg’s new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system into the Soccer City and Ellis Park stadiums for the 10 World Cup matches that have already been played there.
For the many South African spectators, it has been their first taste of the new transport system in the city, and all indications are that it will become a well-used mode of transport long after the World Cup has left the country’s shores.
Known as the Rea Vaya (“we are going”), the system is one of the many transport and infrastructure projects that was accelerated for the kick-off of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, and during the tournament it has been one of the largest carriers of fans to and from matches in the city.
“The BRT is currently transporting around 30 percent of the fans to both Ellis Park and Soccer City,” said Sibongile Khumalo, Johannesburg host city coordinator for the World Cup.
“We have received a positive response from the public and the uptake has been very good,” said Khumalo. “The BRT system takes fans straight to the stadiums, and the easy access and usage has made it very popular with fans.”
The Rea Vaya transports fans to Soccer City in around 10 minutes from the Westgate station in the Johannesburg CBD, and under 15 minutes from the Thokoza Park station in Soweto. “The BRT saves people time, they can beat traffic as the system reliable and quick,” said Khumalo.
Based on the Brazilian Curitiba, which was the first BRT system developed in the world, the Rea Vaya utilises specialised vehicles, dedicated bus lanes, easy access stations and reliable scheduling.
The BRT system is a growing project, with new routes being planned for other parts of the city, ensuring that public transport in Johannesburg will continue to benefit more people once the World Cup concludes.
“We plan to increase the network after the World Cup,” said Khumalo. “This is a system that will change the way people travel around the city. Already, 20 000 Johannesburg residents use the system daily, from home to work and back again.”
For Khumalo, the publicity around the Rea Vaya system during the tournament has raised public awareness and understanding among South Africans. “The BRT was fairly new before the tournament. Using the buses on the way to matches means that new customers are being created every day, and these people will start using the system as part of their daily transport.”
As fans arrived in Soccer City for the clash between Ghana and Germany on Wednesday night, commuters were impressed.
“The buses are great, comfortable and fast,” said Koketso Baloyi. “It is great to finally have a system like this in South Africa. With the Gautrain and Rea Vaya, the travel around Johannesburg will change for good,” he said, referring to the recently completed Gautrain rapid rail link between the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport.
Isaiah Malatji first used the Rea Vaya on his way to the opening match at Soccer City between South Africa and Mexico. “It is really amazing and has done us proud, I’ve caught it to a few games now and in conversation with other commuters we can only sing its praises,” said Malatji.
“I will definitely be using the buses regularly. Before this I relied on my car, but this will change for me after the World Cup. It is a great gift for our young nation having first-class infrastructure, and it makes us proud to be from Johannesburg. We will gain much from this World Cup.”