Countdown begins as Gautrain steams towards June deadline

27th May 2011 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

With roughly one month remaining before the second leg of the Gautrain rapid-rail system is scheduled to open, construction work along the Johannesburg to Pretoria link is rapidly drawing towards a close.

The first phase of the R25,4-billion rail project – Sandton to the OR Tambo International Airport – opened almost a year ago, in time for the kickoff of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The passenger tally for the first month reached 400 000 trips.

In September 2010, the train carried its millionth passenger.

Consortia were first invited to submit bids for the Gautrain Rapid Railway, nicknamed the Shilowa Express after the then Gauteng premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, in 2001.

Two bids were submitted, with Bombela – a French/Canadian/South African corporate consortium – announced as the winning bidder to build the system, and to then operate it for 15 years in a public-private partnership.

Construction started in 2006.

Here is a last look at some of the construction work on the project, before the system is due to open at the end of June.