No guarantee Gautrain will be ready for 2010

The Gautrain is expected to be ready for the 2010 Soccer World Cup but there are no guarantees, the project leader said on Wednesday.

“The section for the people landing here for the soccer will be ready,” Gautrain Project Leader Jack van der Merwe told the portfolio committee on transport at a briefing in Johannesburg, but would not guarantee this.

“We’d rather be late than be sorry ... The volume of work is such that you can’t rush it.”

Van der Merwe emphasised that the R20-billion Gautrain is primarily for Gauteng commuters, not the soccer tournament, and that it could not be rushed to ensure it was finished for the soccer tourists.

“You cannot spend this amount of money for a four-week event ... This train is not being built for the Soccer World Cup, but it would be nice to have it finished in time.”

He said the Gautrain was planned before South Africa was chosen to host the World Cup.

Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe officially launched the work on the project on September 28.
The first phase, needed for the World Cup as it connects OR Tambo International airport to Sandton, will take 45 months, giving a completion date of June 2010.

The World Cup is usually held over June to July.

The committee was at the Gautrain Project offices for its second briefing on the project, following a briefing in Cape Town last year.

The committee oversees the national transport budget, which will spend R3-billion on the Gautrain this year.

Committee chairperson Jeremy Cronin said it was important to maximise the benefits of the Gautrain, particularly for the poorer communities, due to the huge cost. “We’ve never spent R20-billion on public transport before.”

This also meant making sure the Gautrain links well with existing public transport.

The Gautrain has had more public input than any other project in South Africa, the committee was told.

“We have the biggest register of interested parties in the history of South Africa. We have had 147 public meetings,” said Van der Merwe.

“There is no other project in the history of this country that has had such consultation ... From an EIA (environmental impact assessment) perspective you can show me nothing in this country that’s been done more thoroughly than this.”

The committee heard briefly of public opposition to the Gautrain, ranging from unsuccessful legal action to reroute it to concerns over electromagnetic interference with pacemakers.—Sapa

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