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Mar 01, 2010

Gauteng government readies bus service in case Gautrain talks fail

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Gautrain Management Agency CEO Jack van der Merwe discusses the bus services to be implemented for the 2010 FIFA World Cup (01/03/10) Cameraperson: Nicholas Boyd; editing: Shane Williams
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While negotiations are continuing on whether the first phase of the Gautrain, running from Sandton to the OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA), will be ready for the FIFA World Cup, the Gauteng province has issued and closed a tender for bus transport on this, as well as five other routes, for the six-week duration of the sports event.

“We have received 30 tenders, and we are evaluating 22 of these,” says Gautrain Management Agency CEO Jack van der Merwe.

The winning tender will be announced in the next two weeks.

The six bus-routes run from ORTIA to Westgate, ORTIA to Tshwane, ORTIA to Sandton, Lanseria Airport to Sandton, Lanseria Airport to Tshwane, and Sandton to Tshwane.

Van der Merwe says GMA has been mandated with implementing the bus service for sports fans as the agency may be tasked to fulfill any transport function the Gauteng government sees fit.

“If the negotiations to complete phase one of the Gautrain are completed in time, then we take out the ORTIA – Sandton bus route, and run only the other five routes for the World Cup.”

The Gauteng government and the Bombela Concession Company, responsible for building and operating the R25,4-billion Gautrain rapid-rail link for the provincial government, have for months been locked in negotiations to ascertain whether it will be feasible to accelerate the first phase of the project in time for the global sports event.

The rail project's phase one is contractually scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2010, with the World Cup kick-off to take place on June 11.

The rapid-rail link has never been a 2010 project.

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

A decision on whether the rail project can be accelerated to accommodate the sports event is due this week, as time is running out, says Van der Merwe.

The original cost of speeding up the process would have been R1,3-billion, but Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane last year announced that government funding constraints prevented this accelerated process.

However, following this announcement, Bombela proposed a new plan to enable the commissioning of a modified phase-one rail service, in time for the opening ceremony of the World Cup.

This was to cost the government no additional money, but may still have cost implications, as it will be of a modified scope.

“We don’t want to have it finished now, and then pay the money later. If the payment is deferred, the answer is still no,” says Van der Merwe.

“We have to figure out exactly what this reduced scope means, and how we have to adapt the milestone payments on the project.”

He says a limited scope first phase will mean that only 30% of parking will be finished at the Sandton station, for example, and that there will be no long-term discount tickets available.

Should phase one of the Gautrain be operational for the World Cup, it will cost around R100 a ticket, says Van der Merwe, driven by the fact that train tickets have always been envisaged as cheaper than operating a car over the same distance, but more expensive than existing public transport. Also, he adds, the airport link is to be more expensive than the link between Johannesburg and Tshwane (phase two of the Gautrain), as it is more luxurious and spacious.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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