As of yesterday, the minibus taxis which used to load passengers on the Cape Town Station Deck have temporarily moved to the Grand Parade to make way for the long-awaited refurbishment of the deck.
The minibus taxis will operate from temporary demarcated lanes for various routes until Wednesday February 6, when they will return to the deck.
The upgrade includes repairs to the road surface, signs, pavements and sidewalks, and repainting of the roadmarkings.
The upgrade of the deck had been anticipated since 2016, when City officials conducted surveys to determine the needs and expectations of drivers and commuters to introduce some short-term changes.
The mayoral committee member for transport, Felicity Purchase, said at the time of the survey that about 200 000 people – commuters, pedestrians, traders and minibus-taxi operators – used the station deck.
She said the survey listed crime, sanitation and cleanliness, as well as the current infrastructure and amenities, as being of concern to all of those making use of the station deck – be it commuters, operators, traders or pedestrians.
“The redevelopment of this facility will need to address these concerns. Until such time as the City has the available budget for a major upgrade, which will include the Golden Acre bus terminus, we are undertaking minor refurbishments, such as the one which is taking place.”
The station deck taxi rank dates back to 1996 when the roof scape of the Cape Town station was used as a minibus-taxi rank for the first time.
“It’s one of the city’s busiest transport facilities and thousands of commuters from suburbs from all over Cape Town disembark or fetch minibus-taxis from this rank.
“Given the traffic and the number of commuters this rank accommodates every day, it has reached a point where we must undertake urgent repair and refurbishment work. The City’s transport directorate will now invest approximately R2 million to improve the facilities at the station deck,” said Ms Purchase.
Maintenance teams will paint the buildings and road markings, repair the lighting, repair potholes and cracks in the road surface and sidewalks, and restore the destination boards to help commuters find the correct departure lanes.
Taxi operator Shannon Smith said it was about time the City of Cape Town upgraded the station deck.
He said commuters are sometimes reluctant to take a taxi from the deck because it is dirty and smelly.
One of the major problems on the station deck was the dysfunctional toilets.
“The toilets haven’t been working, and there is no running water. People urinate and defecate all over the place, which leaves it smelly.”
Mr Smith said the deck would benefit from more law enforcement as there are a number of taxis without permits operating on the deck; people who sell and use drugs; as well as homeless people sleeping there.
“We would also like to know what is happening to the boom, because there is no security there.”
A regular, who only identified himself as Smokey, said the City needs to employ people to clean the deck and provide efficient security, as people use drugs there.
“At the end of the day, commuters don’t want to come here, because of the conditions.”
He said taxis need to be monitored more closely as those without permits are allowed to load passengers on the deck, which causes problems.
“People get robbed and their lives become endangered, then all taxi operators are seen in that light. People won’t say who it was, they will just say ‘it was a Wynberg taxi’.”
He reiterated that the toilet was dirty and unhygienic. “There are lots of germs breeding there. The toilets play a huge role. The potholes are in the streets because people urinate anywhere – they can’t use the toilet.
“This is our work as taxi operators. The City needed to make more effort. The taxi industry is a thriving one. If they don’t look after us, we cannot look after the commuters. When Metrorail has problems or buses strike – we are the ones who provide transport for the people.
“This is our bread and butter. The City needs to make sure that this place is clean and maintained.”
Asked if he is happy that the deck will be refurbished, he said: “Give it a few months, and it will be back to the way it is now.”
Desmond Julies said he welcomed the renovation. “It’s by time they do something at the taxi rank. Cape Town’s deck cannot look like this, this is one of the main transport hubs, and our tourists visit the city often. We can’t have a stinking, dirty deck.”
He said besides the unusable toilets and the filth, another problem taxi drivers have is the flow of traffic when arriving and leaving the deck.
“The flow is a struggle – there is always a traffic jam. It will be a big change for the people if they can fix that.”
Asked about the ablution facilities, Ms Purchase said refurbishment of the toilets have been completed and they will be available once the entire upgrade has been completed.
She said the City is currently employing Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers to do the cleaning at the station deck.
However, she said it remains an ongoing challenge to keep this area clean, given the high volume of users.
She said the City intends to implement access control at the deck once the minor refurbishment has been done, which includes the operation of the boom gates. “Law enforcement officers control this area as often as possible, and as often as resources allow.”
While the taxi operators were mostly positive about the refurbishment, some of the vendors said they were in the dark about what will happen to them, and were afraid that they may not have a place to do business after the upgrade.
Eric Lalande, who has been trading on the station deck for five years, said they have no idea what will happen to their spaces during and after the upgrade. However, he said the space is in dire need of one.
“It’s very dirty here. We have to clean up ourselves before we set up our stalls. There are also no lights on the deck so it is dangerous for us. We hope that they fix the lights too.”
Ms Purchase said the City is leasing the station deck from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). The space is allowed for minibus-taxi operations only and trading is prohibited within the boundaries of the leased area.
Prasa did not respond to questions from the CapeTowner by the time we went to print.
Meanwhile, the City said the public will still be able to access the station deck, but access will be limited in the areas where the work is happening.
Some traders and retail outlets may be affected, but for a limited period only. During the refurbishment, the long distance taxi services will not be affected and will continue to operate from the station deck while maintenance and upgrading is being completed.
There will be temporary lanes at the Grand Parade for routes to Langa, Gugulethu, Samora Machel, Nyanga, Lower Philippi, Hanover Park, Kensington, Mitchell’s Plain, Delft, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Milnerton, Dunoon, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Heideveld, Bridgetown, Mowbray, and Wynberg; as well as bays for those taxis serving Atlantis, Silversands, Sea Point, Hout Bay, and Bellville.
The minibus taxis will enter the Grand Parade in Castle Street and there are two exits – one in Castle Street and the other in Darling Street.
Ms Purchase said other road users must therefore anticipate an increase in the number of minibus taxis on the roads in this area over the next few weeks.