Gautrain dispute up for arbitration
The Gautrain Management Agency and the Bombela consortium might have to go into arbitration to resolve issues that are holding up the opening of the final leg of the system.
After several delays in the opening of the 4km stretch of the system from Rosebank to Park Station in the Johannesburg CBD, the two parties are in a dispute on whether the tunnel is ready for usage.
Gautrain Management Agency CEO Jack van der Merwe said yesterday that if the standoff was not resolved, GMA would be forced to "approach the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa to help manage an arbitration process".
The agency argues that Bombela has not provided assurances that "the excessive amount of water will not cause irreparable harm to the tunnel itself ... in the long term".
Bombela disagrees. Last month it said the tunnel was ready for use and that the company had met all its contractual obligations in fixing it. "We reiterate that the tunnels were specifically designed to accept water seepage and that the current levels of seepage do not pose any short- or long-term risks," spokesman Kelebogile Machaka said.
The stretch of the tunnel from Rosebank to Park Station was planned to open when the Pretoria to Rosebank route opened in August last year.
But water seepage in tunnels has delayed the opening of the last leg several times.
The Railway Safety Regulator spokesman Sibongiseni Henna said: "Water does not form an immediate threat to safety."
When the final leg of the Gautrain opens, an extra 2000 people are expected to use the train each day," said Van der Merwe.
He said between 32000 and 35000 people currently use the system daily, with 8000 of those using the airport route.
But both the GMA and Bombela argue that the number of people using the Gautrain has exceeded their forecasts.
Due to increased demand, at the beginning of this month six more eight-car trains were added to the Pretoria route, increasing passenger capacity by 40%, said Machaka.
But projections in the Department of Transport's 2010/2011 annual report tell a different story.
The report says the Pretoria route was "set to move at least 40000 people hourly" between Johannesburg and Tshwane.