Gautrain to fast-track through Joburg

Johannesburg - The second phase of the Gautrain is fast becoming a reality, with tenders for feasibility studies to be awarded within the next two weeks.

The first leg will run from Sandton to Honeydew through Randburg, with another six extensions to be constructed over the next 25 years stretching from Mamelodi to Naledi.

Gautrain Management Agency chief executive Jack van der Merwe says the Gautrain will emulate London's underground. Picture: Matthews Baloyi. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

The second leg runs from Honeydew, through Cosmo City, Fourways and Bluehills to Samrand.

The feasibility study, which will take two years, will consider issues such as value for money, affordability, risk transfer, as well as financial, technical and legal issues.

When that is complete, the environmental impact assessment will be done – this will take about a year. Then the construction should start. It is projected to take between three and five years.

Gautrain Management Agency chief executive Jack van der Merwe said there would be an expected 18.7 million people living in Gauteng in the next 25 years, 8.6 million of whom would be workers needing transport to and from work.

This would result in 25 million passenger trips a day, excluding school and leisure trips.

“This is the same number of trips they have in London, and we have 25 years to replicate that city’s transport systems. So something has to be done to improve public transport. We want it to be a mode of choice, not of force,” he said.

Realising that something had to be done, the province came up with a 25-year integrated transport master plan that looked at issues such as the predicted economy, what type of jobs would be created, the number of workers, land-use, public transport, non-motorised transport and private car use.

The study also looked at land availability and it was found that 1.5 million people would not be able to be accommodated in the province.

A triangle of land was identified between Pretoria/Joburg and OR Tambo International Airport, which will be densified to accommodate between 80 and 100 people per hectare.

“The transport plan is a holistic one, and everyone, including local municipalities, gave their input,” he said.

Van der Merwe said he predicted a turnabout by people who had opposed the train in the past.

“The last time, no one knew what to expect and there were lots of objections. No one wanted the train too close to their properties.

“But now that they have seen how sharply the value of properties around the Gautrain stations have increased, many will want the stations to be close to them,” he said.

The province had gained invaluable experience during the construction of the Gautrain.

This would help immensely for the next phase, Van der Merwe said.

“There will always be problems and objections on a project of this size, both with the expropriation of land and with environmental groups, but this is to be expected.

“The one good thing is that we became experts in how to manage public-private partnerships, especially in regard to socio-economic aspects of such a project, which hugely benefited many South Africans and local companies,” he said.

Again, the model will be fares higher than taxis, but lower than car use.

Van der Merwe would not be drawn on the cost of the project.

“It is too early to predict, besides which, even if I could guesstimate, I wouldn’t as this landed me in a lot of trouble last time around,” he joked.

He had announced the Gautrain would cost R8 billion, but in the end that figure was closer to R30 billion.