Interest in Jozi’s underground marvel mounting

Anna Cox

Johannesburg - The interest in the development of the City of Joburg’s underground tunnels is mounting.

The StarThe Star

On Wednesday, The Star’s front page reached a record of 6 500 views on Facebook alone.

Many people called in wanting actual photos of the tunnels which could not be arranged because there is a lot of underground water in them.

However, the Johannesburg Development Agency, and the architects working on the concept, will be arranging a visit there within the next few weeks once the water has been suctioned out.

On Wednesday, architect Ray Harli said there was a great passion for the Joburg CBD among residents - and an even greater need for positive stories on the city.

Harli said that after The Star’s article, his phone did not stop ringing.

“Besides being on radio a few times, including twice on Radio 702 during the day, I have had government departments, developers and ordinary members of the public calling to express support for the project and asking how they can get involved. We wanted to create interest and see if there would be support for this and now, given the response and enthusiasm, we are going to push harder to get if off the ground,” he said.

Harli said they were now looking at crowd and government funding to kickstart the redevelopment of the tunnels.

“People love this city and even more, they love good news about it,” he said.

The JDA has confirmed that there is funding for a feasibility study in the 2016/17 budget to investigate whether it would be viable to convert the tunnels into underground transport nodes connecting various areas and tourist attractions across the inner city.

The proposed plan, still in its infancy stage, would see additional opening from above ground into the tunnels to make them more accessible for pedestrians.

The tunnels have large chambers in between them which could see coffee shops, stores and even parks in them.

The study will also look at the health and safety issues in the tunnel, which were used, from the 1930s until the 1950s, to transport mail faster.

The mail would be placed on conveyor belts and taken to chutes under the railway lines from where it would be dropped into the trains.