Black economic-empowerment shareholder in the Bombela Concession Company, the Strategic Partners Group (SPG), reports that it has successfully negotiated eight contracts for the Gautrain project since its inception 18-months ago.
SPG has partnered with existing companies in the industry, forming joint ventures (JVs) with companies in order to gain skilled staff members and management expertise for the running of different contracts within the Gautrain project.
SPG contracts director Graham Sanders says the company has completed and handed over its first building contract, the Midrand depot administration office building, to the Bombela Civils Joint Venture.
The contract was undertaken by SPG in partnership with JSE-listed civil engineering construction group Stefanutti Stocks. Work on the project included the workshops at the depot, the maintenance area for the trains and carriages, and the administration block where trains will be monitored on high-tech screens, and from where the operation of the trains will be controlled. Also the propulsion sub-station, and a number of minor buildings were included in the contract. The entire contract value amounts to R94-million.
Other contracts taken on by the company involve the Midrand station, the Sandton station and parkade, the Rosebank parkade, the Modderfontein station, the Centurion dolomitic grouting, the deviation of carriage ways on the before the Pretoria station and the Hatfield parkade.
SPG together with Murray & Roberts construction subsidiary Concor Building, has also started with the construction of the Midrand station.
Sanders says contractors are working on a very tight schedule to complete the construction of certain parts of the station. Once these parts are completed, construction of the train line will start in April 2009. The contract for the Midrand station has a total value of R62-million.
The Sandton station and parkade is the flagship project of the Gautrain, says Sanders. "It is the biggest individual contract of the project besides the tunnelling and viaducts, and the Sandton station will form the hub of the Gautrain network," he adds.
The contract for the Sandton station and parkade has an initial value of R250-million. SPG, in conjunction with building and engineering company Murray & Roberts Construction, will carry out construction of the five level parkade, and a 48-m below ground-level underground station.
In addition to the works at the station and parkade, SPG is also engaged in negotiations to build all commercial developments at the front facade of the station.
SPG also has successfully negotiated the contract for the construction of the Rosebank parkade with a contract value of R26,5-million.
The contract will start early in 2009, after the completion of tunnel-boring machine activities. The contract will be conducted in conjunction with bulk earthworks and construction company Liviero Civils.
SPG is also building the bridges and platforms to accommodate the future envisaged Modderfontein station in conjunction with Stefanutti Stocks piling and civils division. Sanders explains that with the bridges and platforms already built, adding a station in ten to 15 years time will not interfere with the operation of the train. The initial contract value is about R15-million, says Sanders.
Sanders says the contract for the Centurion dolomitic grouting had an initial value of R110-million, but the price tag of the contract has increased, owing to changes in the scope of the work.
He explains that the dolomites are a type of rock that is very soluble in water and over a long period of time, with the ingress of water, large cavities are formed underground, that can result in the development of sinkholes.
The Centurion section of the train line is elevated, and the foundations of the piers have to be solid. Sanders says that requires each pier position, which is about 50-m apart, to be drilled to a depth of 50 m and filled with cement.
He adds that the size of the voids is unknown, resulting in the increase in the scope of work. "This adds pressure to deliver the project on time and within budget," says Sanders.
The dolomitic grouting contract is being conducted in conjunction with Stefanutti Stocks Geotechnical division.
SPG is also busy with a R50-million contract with Stefanutti Stocks earthworks. The contract involves a cut-and-cover operation, and the deviation of two carriageways near the Pretoria station.
Sanders reports that SPG is currently carrying out the deviation for the northbound carriageway, and will start with the excavation of the tunnel in the new year.
The company, in partnership with Concor Building, is also busy with the R82,5-million construction of the Hatfield parkade.
Sanders says the biggest challenge has been coordinating the Bombela Civils JV and the designers of the projects to deliver projects and services on time and within budget.
He adds that the lack of capable and qualified technicians and engineers in the country also poses a challenge. "There has been a huge ‘brain drain' from the country, and with the amount of construction activity currently being undertaken in South Africa, an extreme shortage of skilled people is being experienced in the country."
He says it is important to retain young engineers and technicians who are currently gaining invaluable experience and given the opportunity to work on the biggest construction project in Africa.
SPG has employed and trained a number of young engineers and technicians, exposing them to the Gautrain project.
He adds that SPG is one of the main black economic-empowerment construction companies in the country, because of its exposure to the Gautrain project. The company is planning to expand beyond and outside the Gautrain project, on its own and through JVs, Sanders concludes.