Final Gautrain link may open in May, says Van der Merwe
Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO Jack van der Merwe is hopeful the remaining leg of the Gautrain route, running between Rosebank station and Park station, in downtown Johannesburg, will open “some time in May”.
“The contractor still has some work to do to bring the water ingress to within the required specification. Opening the link depends on the speed at which the contractor works,” says Van der Merwe.
The Bombela consortium is responsible for building and operating the Gautrain system.
A May opening would be four to five months later than the forecast initially provided by the Gauteng government in July last year, when it predicted the last stretch of the 80 km route could be operational by the end of 2011.
The Rosebank–Pretoria link of the Gautrain project opened on August 2, 2011. However, Park station remained off limits following the more-than-expected water ingress in the tunnel connecting Rosebank and Park stations.
A bus service was instituted to carry Gautrain passengers from Rosebank to Park station.
Remedial work to the tunnel involves an iterative grouting process that requires Bombela to inject grout into the tunnel floor a number of times.
This is expected to reduce the permeability of the rock mass and, thus, reduce the water which enters the tunnel drains.
“It is difficult to calculate how many times you have to return to do this,” notes Van der Merwe.
He issued the same warning in July last year.
At that time, it was also noted that the tunnel repairs would be at no cost to the province and, therefore, the tax payer.
Van der Merwe expects the Rosebank–Park link, along with the start of tolling on Gauteng highways on April 30, as well as steeply rising fuel price, to add an immediate 20% to the current 35 000-train-passenger-a-day number.
Already the urban rail system had gained 2 000 train passengers a day since Bombela in March increased its capacity in the morning and afternoon peaks, owing to high demand for seating on the service, he notes.
“The type of passenger we move expects a seat.”
In another step to ease congestion, nine new ticket vending machines will soon be installed at hot spots, such as the Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport stations, allowing for quicker turnaround time in acquiring or loading Gautrain gold cards, notes Van der Merwe.
He adds that the Gautrain bus service is returning to normal following major labour unrest.
Van der Merwe says the Gautrain system lost around 3 000 passengers a day following the temporary suspension of the service, but adds that they are “now coming back slowly”.
Bombela then also received a steep fine for failing to deliver a reliable bus service.
“We have a strict performance regime in terms of the service Bombela should deliver,” says Van der Merwe.