THE Western Cape High Court on Friday dismissed an application by Golden Arrow Bus Services to halt the further rollout of the MyCiTi bus system.
MyCiTi Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Cape Town’s integrated system of public transport, is aimed at enhancing the quality of bus services in the city.
Like Johannesburg’s BRT system, Rea Vaya, MyCiTi has also experienced numerous challenges at various stages of its implementation.
Cape Town intends to implement phase two of the service later this year.
Last month, Golden Arrow approached the Western Cape High Court disputing the negotiations for the rollout of the MyCiTi bus system, claiming the negotiations with the city were not legitimate.
The transport company had asked the court to refer the discussions to mediation, and if this did not succeed, to arbitration. The company’s concern was the percentage of the stake that it will get in the two phases of the MyCiTi service, and whether it was entitled to a payment for decommissioning buses and mothballing some of its assets.
Western Cape High Court Judge J Griesel on Friday dismissed the application with costs, saying the process of establishing an integrated public transport network was “extremely complex”. He found that compulsory arbitration and mediation where parties could not reach agreement was “inappropriate”.
“If the city were obliged to reach consensus on every issue and with every participant in the process, failing which it could be compelled to go to mediation and arbitration, it could become endlessly bogged down,” J Griesel said in handing down his judgement.
Being compelled to a process of mediation and arbitration would make it impossible for the city to fulfil its statutory mandate — as required by the National Land Transport Act — to take steps ‘as soon as possible’ to integrate services into the larger public transport system.
The judgement said a section of the National Land Transport Act stated that a contracting authority, such as the city, was obliged to negotiate but not to agree.
Golden Arrow’s application to compel the city to negotiate in good faith was also dismissed.
The judge said that the allegation that the city did not negotiate in good faith was a “strong allegation, which implied fraud or dishonesty”.
He found that the city was not obliged by section 41 of the National Land Transport Act to negotiate with Golden Arrow Bus Services about compensation for its vehicles and assets, which would be made redundant by Phase 1A and B of the MyCiti roll out.
According to the judgment, the city had not refused negotiations at all but the parties had negotiated to deadlock on these issues. The fact that the city and Golden Arrow hold different views could not justify an inference of bad faith or unreasonableness on the part of the city.
“We welcome this judgement. It is good for Cape Town and our vision of creating an opportunity city by providing affordable and quality public transport”, said mayoral committee member for transport, roads and stormwater Brett Herron.
“This is wonderful news for the people of Cape Town. It means that current negotiations for long-term contracts to operate existing MyCiTi routes, as well as those in the rest of Phase 1A and Phase 1B, can continue and those contracts can be concluded.
“Importantly, this ruling allows us to implement our vision of affordable and integrated public transport for all the residents of Cape Town,” Mr Herron said.
Golden Arrow could not be immediately reached for comment.