The 27 billion rand second phase of the Gautrain extending from Rosebank Station in Johannesburg to Hatfield Station in Tshwane will operate commercially from August 2, the Gauteng Provincial Government, the Gautrain Management Agency and the Bombela Concession Company announced on Thursday.
The route had been scheduled for operation at the end of June, and would follow the first phase of the project linking Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport, which opened last year ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The independent certifiers for the project, Arup, confirmed that they would be in a position to issue the Operating Commencement Date Certificate for this phase of operations on August 1.
This followed an evaluation of all the contractual and technical requirements for this phase.
The section to be opened would include all stations thereon. The Gautrain's bus services would also be fully functional along this route.
The final, southward leg from Rosebank Station to Park Station in the Johannesburg CBD however, would be opened at a later date to accommodate additional engineering works in that section of the route. “This is a precautionary measure to ensure that the highest passenger safety standards are adhered to, while engineering works are in progress,” the Gautrain operating company said.
All Gautrain stations, with the exception of Park Station, would be opened to the public from July 29, “to enable prospective passengers to familiarise themselves with the train and bus services available and also to pre-purchase Gautrain tickets,” the groups said.
Train and bus services would however only become operational from August 2.
From that date train services would operate daily between approximately 5:30 and 20:30, including weekends. Trains would run at 12-minute intervals during peak periods on weekdays (5:30 - 8:30 and 16:00 - 19:00) and at 20-minute intervals during off-peak hours.
The trains would run at 30-minute intervals during weekends while the Gautrain bus timetable would be integrated with the train timetable. There will be no bus service on weekends and public holidays.
“The Gauteng Provincial Government, the Gautrain Management Agency and the Bombela Concession Company are pleased that the negotiations relating to the further engineering works, the cost implications thereof and the opening of the next phase of the Gautrain, have been satisfactorily resolved,” the group said.
The collective body said that the water ingress in the Rosebank to Park Station tunnel was a material issue for the certification of the entire Gautrain system.
“First it had to be established whether the water ingress in the tunnel was more than the specifications that were agreed in the Concession Agreement,” the body said. Once this had been established, Bombela was asked to submit a tunnel works plan for additional engineering works that will be implemented to reduce the volume of ground water seeping into this section of the tunnel.
“It must be stated clearly that although the water ingress in the Rosebank to Park Station section is not within the contract specification, the entire system, including the tunnel section between Rosebank and Park Stations is completely safe. Hence the issuing, by the Railway Safety Regulator, of the Operating Permit on July 11. Although safety had not been compromised, the Gauteng Province and Bombela are concerned about the impact of water ingress, above the agreed upon levels, on the long-term viability and integrity of the infrastructure. Gautrain has been a huge investment for both parties and it is their responsibility to look after this investment, the groups said in a joint statement.
The delayed opening of the tunnel section between Rosebank Station and Park Station would enable Bombela to address the water ingress problem in the shortest possible time with the least impact on the rest of the system. “The cost of undertaking this additional engineering works will not be for the account of the province,” the groups said.
The engineering works would include drilling small diameter holes through the tunnel floor and injecting low viscosity grout into the surrounding rock. This would reduce the permeability of the rock mass and thus reduce the water which entered the tunnel drains. “This is an iterative process and it is difficult to predict how long it will take to achieve the desired results; however it is envisaged that the section between Rosebank and Park Stations could be opened by the end of this year. For those commuters who want to use this part of the Gautrain route, buses will be provided to transfer them between Rosebank and the Johannesburg CBD. The actual routes of these bus services will be communicated at a later stage,” the groups said. - I-Net Bridge