“It’s painful but you have to work through it,” Carlos Esteves, head of infrastructure roll-out at GODurban! told a gathering of the Northern Area Business forum at Umhlanga’s Beverley Hills today.
These are businesses that face the same massive upheavals experienced by firms in Pinetown and surrounds during the construction of the first phase of the project – the C3 corridor linking Bridge City with Pinetown central.
That, it seems, is all but complete with lessons learnt that could make things easier for those in the north as the next phase takes shape.
Current construction is on the C9 corridor linking Bridge City with Gateway.
It started with construction of the bridge over the N2 towards Cornubia which should take around nine months.
The whole of C3 will take three to four years to complete – a period during which the eThekwini municipality is eager to deliver another segment of a system that is expected to provide 85% of Durbanites with reliable, quality transport. Authorities also hope it will in include some innovative collaborations with business.
The overall project – nine corridors worth around R22-billion and funded by the National Treasury – currently has a 2027 finishing date.
It will integrate road and rail transport with both using the same ticketing system and meeting the same standards. Smaller vehicles – perhaps even the taxis that have been the nemesis of the project – will service the feeder routes leading to the main trunk route.
An innovative solution to a backlash from taxi operators is also on the table, Esteves said. Bus operators and taxi bosses will be combined into the entity that will run GODurban!
A dedicated team is already in place to negotiate with the taxi industry.
However, even Esteves is not expecting all to be plain sailing with an industry that is large and challenging. He admitted they were expected some “arm wrestling”.
Potential links and partnerships with business are the most exciting aspect, though.
They’ve started by collaborating with the developers at Cornubia. City planners have put forward a proposed ‘eye’ or mixed use noted that will run down the centre of Cornubia Boulevard. It may include multi storey blocks as well as the station itself.
Similar thinking is likely to see all station acting as broader development catalysts.
Esteves said the municipality was looking to “change land use” at all major station nodes.
Perhaps the most intriguing one, though, is the proposed Crossroads station which is in KwaMashu A.
Apart from developing a transport system in a volatile precinct that is home to crime syndicates, GODurban! faces the prospect of moving the existing taxi rank to exactly where the new GODurban! station needs to be.
It has committed to building a replacement for taxi operators.
But, if the new facility doesn’t cut it, the taxis won’t move.
Construction is expected to start in January next year and end in July 2018.
Crossroads station will also be close to a number of economic development projects already being funded by the municipality, including a furniture incubator. These will include a light industrial development zone, an office block, a retail segment and even a housing area in lieu of nearby shacks.
Whether at Crossroads or elsewhere, Esteves said closed and well secured stations would be “substantial buildings” located in the middle of roads to avoid having to turn large vehicles.
These will travel along dedicated bus lanes – with raised barriers of at least 1.2m to prevent other vehicles from using them.
The city is also apparently about to begin building a prototype station.
But legislation stipulates that these have to be “universally accessible with no steep gradients – introducing a uniquely Durban challenge.
“We will have to create platforms leading to stations. You’ll see plenty of walls. I can’t flatten Durban!” Esteves conceded.