On Tuesday it was still unclear whether the R25,4-billion Gautrain rapid-rail project would be completed in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO Jack van der Merwe said the Bombela consortium, responsible for the project’s construction, had indicated that it might be technically feasible to complete the project in time for the June 11 kick-off, but that this was not a certainty.

The project’s phase one – the link between the OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) and Sandton – was not contractually scheduled to be completed until the end of June.

However, government had previously indicated the need to complete the project in time for the global sports event.

Van der Merwe said it seems as if Bombela would be able to tell GMA in mid-October whether it would be able to wrap up phase one in May.

“So, by the middle of October we will know whether we must pay extra to have the link completed. Then we will also have to decide whether it is worth the money and, if so, where we will find the money.”

Van der Merwe told Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport earlier in the day that GMA would not pay an “unreasonable amount” to the Bombela consortium to accelerate the project for a four-week-long event.

“It was never said that this was a soccer project. This train has to run for another 100 years. You cannot spend this kind of money on a four-week event,” news agency Sapa quoted Van der Merwe as saying.

The Gautrain project was announced in January 2000. South Africa was awarded the World Cup in April 2004.

Van der Merwe said 125 buses would be ready to transport passengers from the airport to their hotels should the train not be ready in time.

Phase two of the Gautrain project was scheduled for completion in March 2011, ultimately linking Johannesburg, Tshwane and ORTIA.

– with reporting by Sapa

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Irma Venter
DATED: 25th August 2009