The possibility of running later operating hours on Fridays and Saturdays between the Gautrain end-points of Park station, in Johannesburg, and Hatfield station, in Pretoria, has been mooted to enable users to enjoy the vibrant nightlife of the two cities, says Gautrain operator Bombela Concession Company executive Errol Braithwaite.
“Currently, services end at 20:30, but there is a lot of demand from commuters for the system to extend operating times. We are in discussions with the provincial government to try to see what can be done to accommodate this demand,” he says.
Park station is located near the theatres and nightclubs of Newtown, the Johannesburg Civic Theatre, the National School of the Arts, near Constitution Hill, and Wits Theatre, next to the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as other theatres.
Gautrain buses will provide access to these areas and, when the train runs on a daily basis to Park station, they will also transport commuters deeper into the central business district (CBD), including to the First National Bank, Absa and Standard Bank precincts and other businesses, as well as the South Gauteng High Court.
However, the Rosebank to Park station tunnel, in the Johannesburg CBD, has not yet been opened for use, pending approval processes, he adds.
Bombela took Engineering News and other journalists on a 160 km/h ride through the Rosebank to Park station tunnel at the end of April. The new link is expected to increase the total number of Gautrain commuters by between 5% and 20% when it opens.
The grouted portion of the tunnel was dug using drill-and-blast methods and is a drained tunnel, which means the design takes into account limited water ingress, which is captured by a drainage system. However, portions dug using the tunnel-boring machine are sealed, prompting a journalist to ask why the entire tunnel had not been bored, rather than blasted.
Braithwaite noted that the differing geological stratification of the area, specifically softer rock suited to boring and harder rock necessitating drill-and-blast mining techniques, dictated the method of tunnelling used.
Telecommunications links in the Gautrain and in the tunnel would be enabled at a later date. Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) Leaky Feeders have already been installed along the Gautrain tunnels to facilitate this.