/ 31 October 2009

‘Without transport there is no World Cup’

Transport is the key component for the success of the Soccer World Cup, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said on Friday.

”Without transport there is no World Cup,” he said at the launch of the revamped Wonderboom National Airport in Pretoria.

The Airports Company SA handled 32 million passengers a year, which was expected to increase to 43-million in 2010, he said.

Major airport developments were taking place at the OR Tambo, Cape Town, Polokwane and Bloemfontein airports.

”The civil aviation fraternity has certainly placed a huge emphasis on its preparations towards 2010. The SA Civil Aviation Authority is well placed in ensuring aviation safety.”

The Wonderboom airport, north of Pretoria, would be used to operate flights between host cities and serve as refuelling centre for aircraft during the event.

Ndebele said the government, through the city of Tshwane, had invested over R44-million in the Wonderboom airport project, creating over 1 500 jobs.

Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa said the airport was part of a strategy to attract investment to the northern part of the city.

”About 40% of the city’s population is found in the north and the economy has been depressed for a long time.”

At one point the city ”outsourced” the airport as it was not making any profit.

”We took it back and it started to generate profit,” she said, indicating that R160-million had been invested in upgrading the airport.

The Tshwane municipality would use the airport as part of its public transport plan for the World Cup and afterwards. An independent airliner, Interlinks, would operate flights from Wonderboom to Durban and Cape Town.

Ndebele was adamant the country’s transport infrastructure had to be ready in time for 2010.

”If there are areas in which we are not allowed to be below our best — transport is one of those areas. Transport is not an area in which we could afford to fail.”

He said the government had signed guarantees to provide sufficient and safe transport to soccer fans.

”For a host city to have an airport closest to the venue means that travelling fans can easily be integrated into other modes [of transport] such as rail, buses and taxis,” he said. – Sapa