Taxi drivers expressed frustration after yet another delay in the plans to fix Lillian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street), saying this is driving down their businesses.
The drivers raised their concerns with Sunday World.
Due to the closure of Lillian Ngoyi Street in the wake of a fatal underground explosion in July 2023, which methane gas was reportedly to blame for, the road is always congested.
Mayor of the City of Johannesburg Kabelo Gwamanda, municipal manager Floyd Brink, and member of the mayoral committee for roads Kenny Kunene declared on January 11 that the Lilian Ngoyi Street project would require a year to finish, with a budget of R196 million.
However, this appears to have been of little consolation to the taxi drivers who cash in on the extremely busy route.
On Monday, there was an air of hopelessness as the taxi drivers told this publication that they had not seen any work being performed on the damaged road, save for promises from Gwamanda.
Reroute not working
Johannesburg Southern Suburbs Taxi Association chairperson Salim Bossman told Sunday World that this is a challenge because Lilian Ngoyi Street is the main drop-off for passengers.
“The traffic congestion is a problem,” he stated.
“The problems start on Sauer Street, and drivers have to reroute through Braamfontein and come out at Park Station.
“President Street is most congested with traffic. The municipality needs to speed up the process to fix this road. The mayor should just deliver on his word.”
A taxi driver who did not want to be identified ranted about the challenges that commuters face daily.
“It takes us [taxi drivers] almost an hour from Bree Street just to Plein Street. It is frustrating for us and for the passengers; this is ridiculous,” said the taxi driver.
He said Gwamanda should refrain from making promises he cannot keep. “We are losing money as taxi drivers because you [Gwamanda] delay fixing the road that we use on a daily basis.
“Time is money in the taxi industry, so spending an hour in the city hurts us because we lose time from having to wait more than an hour for a single load.
“Instead of being in and out of town for a second trip, we are stuck with angry passengers, and as drivers, we are also upset.
“As mayor, if you feel like you cannot do your job, you can leave that post.”
Another taxi driver said that all the holdup starts on Sauer Street because the drivers want to avoid Lilian Ngoyi Street.
A furious taxi driver joined in on the conversation and said he wants to leave his job, stating that he gains nothing from being a taxi driver.
According to Brink, construction on Lilian Ngoyi is expected to be completed by December 15.
Traffic officers offer no help
Taxi drivers accused traffic cops of trying to ambush drivers around detours in exchange for bribes or of making way for them to manoeuvre their cars through the backed-up traffic.
“They do not even feel embarrassed to ask for money in exchange for cold drinks, lamented an irate driver.
“They hide behind the buildings where drivers go to avoid travelling into Braamfontein and jump out when they see a taxi driver trying to make a U-turn at Harrison Street.”
There was only one fatality and 40 injuries from the underground explosion in July.