Johannesburg – Gautrain, the multibillion rand rapid rail project, will formally be launched on Saturday, erasing any doubts that the first phase of the R25bn project will be finished in time before the 2010 FIFA World Cup gets under way next week.
The first phase was originally scheduled to be completed on June 27.
Barbara Jensen, spokesperson for Gautrain Management Agency, which belongs to Gauteng province and is overseeing the construction of the project, told I-Net Bridge ahead of the formal launch on Saturday the first phase had met the deadline that "seemed impossible a couple months ago".
The first phase links OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton. It is especially vital for Johannesburg, which will host both the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Cup, running from June 11 to July 11.
In the original contract signed on September 28 2006, the Bombela Concession Company was tasked with completing the first phase on June 27 2010.
Bombela consists of Bombardier, Bouygues Travaux Publics, Murray & Roberts and Strategic Partners Group.
In November 2009, Bombela requested R1.3bn to bring forward the completion date by one month, but the Gauteng province declined this request.
The official launch on Saturday confirms that the first phase has been completed, paving way for the start of commercial operation.
Jensen said the commercial operation would start on Tuesday, three days before the World Cup kicks off.
Gautrain Management Agency would operate Gautrain. "We have completed all construction on the airport link OR Tambo to Sandton," Jensen said.
Rhodesfield and Marlboro stations will be operational, Jensen said. As part of phase two, the construction on the route from Sandton to Johannesburg Park Station and from Sandton to Hatfield in Pretoria was ongoing, she said.
This second phase - scheduled to be completed in 2011 - connects Sandton to Park Station, and Midrand to Hatfield in Tshwane.
The network will cover nearly 80km, once both phases one and two are finished.
Gautrain cleared one of its major hurdles on Wednesday when Deputy Minister of Transport Jeremy Cronin handed over the safety permit, which authorises the operations of the Gautrain, to Bombela.
In terms of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act, no person is allowed to operate a railway service in the country without a safety permit, which is issued by the National Railway Safety Regulator.
Much of the operational groundwork has been laid already.
Gautrain Management Agency announced ticket fares on May 26. A trip from OR Tambo to Sandton will cost R100 in either direction.
There are other ticket fares applicable to trips between stations. A single trip from Sandton to Marlboro will cost R16.50, from Sandton to Rhodesfield R21.00, and from Marlboro to Rhodesfield R18.50.
An integrated single train plus single bus trips will cost R22.50 from Sandton to Marlboro, R27.00 from Sandton to Rhodesfield; and R24.50 from Marlboro to Rhodesfield.
Parking at any station will cost R9.50 for the first 24 hours.
The agency said commuters would access all services by means of a contactless smart card, the Gautrain Gold Card, which allows seamless transfer between Gautrain's train, bus and parking services.
"Cash will not be accepted for passage on the buses or trains or at the parking exit gates," it said.