Gautrain rolling along smoothly

first_imgThe Gautrain arrives in South Africa. Aunit is offloaded at Durban harbour. Construction work under way atSandton station. A completed unit takes to the tracks at themanufacturing facility in Derby, UK.(All images: Gautrain)Janine ErasmusThe Gautrain’s airport link is on track for completion by the end of 2009, according to a statement released by Gautrain. This will signal the end of the first phase of the controversial multi-billion-rand rapid transport system.With the 2010 Fifa World Cup kickoff just 504 days away, the vital stretch of track between OR Tambo International and Sandton Station will transport an expected 500 000 Fifa World Cup visitors between 11 June and 11 July – not to mention 19 000 members of the international press.Gauteng province and its capital city Johannesburg will form the hub of the Fifa World Cup and because of this, the route from OR Tambo International airport into the city was a key factor for Fifa officials during their consideration of proposals from prospective host countries. The opening ceremony as well as the first game and final will be held in Johannesburg, which will also be the seat of the broadcast centre and Fifa’s local offices.Gautrain CEO Jack van der Merwe said that the airport link will be similar to that offered by other major international airports such as Heathrow. The price of a trip is currently estimated at around R80.Van der Merwe said that construction work and laying of track along the route will be complete by December 2009, after which the train will be put through its paces in a series of tests. According to Van der Merwe tests began in Derby, UK, in mid-2008 during construction of the first set of coaches. He added that the Gautrain would undergo some 7 000km worth of testing before being given the all clear to carry passengers.Gautrain units are currently tested at a facility in Midrand where communications and signalling systems have been set up. Because the train is controlled by a complicated electronic system, it must be thoroughly tested and certified before a single passenger can set foot on board.Despite the fact that the Gautrain was not originally meant to be complete by 2010 and there is the possibility of running into a few hiccups, said Brian Bruce of construction company Murray and Roberts, all projects are going well.Goodbye to ImbokodoHaving done its job of digging out a 3km underground section between Marlboro and Johannesburg, the state of the art tunnel-boring machine will be dismantled before the middle of 2009. The machine, which was custom built in Germany at a cost of R300-million (US$30-million), goes by the nickname of Imbokodo (isiZulu, meaning rock), weighs 325 tons, and requires an additional 560 tons of backup equipment.Gautrain will travel for most of its route on the ground or across massive viaducts, but will descend underground for a 15km stretch. Of this, Imbokodo was needed to excavate the 3km of soft or waterlogged rock that could not be dug out by the traditional means of drilling and blasting.According to Gautrain management, the front end of the machine will be buried underground in the business suburb of Rosebank. The backup equipment, said Van der Merwe, will be recycled for use in other digging projects but the front end was built specifically for Gautrain and cannot be re-used.Other Gautrain highlightsNumerous parts of the Gautrain project are scheduled for completion during 2009. A section of the route in the Marlboro area, where the two sets of track cross under the N3 highway, will be finished in July. Work on bridges on the Marlboro-OR Tambo line is nearing completion and is expected to be complete in August.The tunnel access point at Mushroom Farm Park in Sandton will be complete around the middle of the year. The park has been closed to the public for the duration of construction but will be rehabilitated and reopened a few months later.Gautrain management is expecting a new consignment of 15 cars from Derby. Construction of passenger units has already begun at the local Gautrain facility in Nigel, east of Johannesburg, and the first finished units will roll out in June. All cars will then be taken to the test track in Midrand for months of extensive testing.The process of recruiting staff to test drive the train is also scheduled for the first half of 2009. Full-time drivers will be appointed as the year progresses. Van der Merwe says that Gautrain will create at least 300 000 jobs, both directly and in related services.Award-winning conceptGautrain won an international award in May 2008 at the annual Public Private Finance Awards ceremony held in London. Described as the biggest in the Private Public Partnership (PPP) sector, the awards are held by the UK-based Public Private Finance magazine. The publication is the industry’s most respected source of information regarding PPP projects in the United Kingdom and Europe.Winners are selected by a panel of experts, and represent the best of the current market. Gautrain scooped the award for Best Global Deal to Sign. “Judges recognised the Gautrain’s expertise to overcome the unique engineering and socio-economic developmental requirements of this PPP project,” said Jack van der Merwe.Gautrain was up against other international projects such as the Britannia Mine Water Treatment Plant and The Conference Centre Dublin.Do you have qyeries or comments about this article? Email Janine Erasmus on [email protected] linksGautrainDepartment of TranaportPrivate Public Finance magazinelast_img

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