|19 June 2013|
South African Minister of Transport S'bu Ndebele says South Africa’s transport system can now confirm that its readiness is solid for the World Cup.
"We are ready to host this much awaited soccer spectacle. One of the most crucial features of the world cup will be the ability of supporters and fans to travel around the country to watch their teams play. Our intergrated transport system is now playing its part in ensuring that South Africa can put its best foot forward," says Ndebele.
The proud Ndebele could not hide his joy after Gautrain was opened to transport the public yesterday morning, just a few days before the World Cup kick off. Excited commuters were ferried between Sandton and the OR Tambo International Airport .
The train only takes 15 minutes to travel from Sandton to OR Tambo International Airport. The train reaches speeds of up to 160km an hour. In order to board the train, passengers need to purchase a Gold Card and load money onto it. This enables them to access both the train and its associated bus services. It costs R100 a trip. The initial service will run from 5am until around 10pm.
Meanwhile, the Bus Rapid Transit Rea Vaya system finally got the nod from the taxi industry. Both the City of Johannesburg and the taxi industry have finally agreed to a partnership in running the services. This could see an end to months of bitter resistance and attacks leveled at BRT by the taxi industry.
In Eastern Cape the local taxi industry has also scored with about 500 taxis being contracted to ferry soccer lovers from the province to match venues around Gauteng.
By early morning, commuters started queuing to be on the high-speed Gautrain's first journey. The train service comes into effect after Bombela, a consortium tasked with handling the project, was issued with a certificate confirming that it has met all its contractual agreements.
The second part of the R25 billion project, which will include the link between Park Station and Rosebank in Johannesburg as well as the Pretoria section of the route, is scheduled to open next year. Accepting the certificate, Project Director Ric Snowden said it is a privilege to have been part of such a historic moment for South Africa and that they look forward to offering both international and local World Cup soccer fans a world-class railway service to and from the airport.
The initial service will run from 5am until around 10pm. The train reaches speeds of up to 160km an hour, with the Sandton Station-O.R Tambo journey taking just 15 minutes. The Gautrain was officially launched at a celebration at Gallagher Estate, north of Johannesburg, at the weekend
“The emphasis of public transport is that [it will encourage] social cohesion and reduce gridlock. The use of public transport cuts away individualism,” Radebe told attendees of the commencement of operations of the first phase of the Gautrain on Saturday night.
The minister was standing in for Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele.
The first phase of the project, which will start ferrying passengers on Tuesday morning, links Sandton, Marlboro, Rhodesfield and OR Tambo International Airport.
“The biggest beneficiary of the Gautrain is definitely the tourism sector. Throughout the world [tourism and transport] they are joined at the hip,” said Radebe.
The “innumerable” spin-offs of the project include businesses moving closer to the railway line.
Radebe said the completion of the first phase of the Gautrain ensured that those who doubted and did not believe the project would get off the ground would now turn their attention elsewhere.
He said the project has displayed co-operation between the three spheres of government.
Gauteng MEC for roads and transport Bheki Nkosi said the system will change the perception of public transport adding that it was the dawn of a new legacy in public transport.
“It is the pride of the nation and the continent,” said Nkosi.
Chief executive of Murray & Roberts, Brian Bruce, said workers were in the process of putting the final touches to the train before Tuesday’s trip. Murray & Roberts forms part of the Bombela consortium, which is responsible for the Gautrain.
“I know many cannot wait to board the train, it is more than just a train,” he said.
Gautrain, he said contributes to job creation as well the creation of new opportunities for small business.
A commemorative issue of ten stamps celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first passenger train to be hauled in South Africa was also launched. They will be available through the Post Office as of 25 June.
Guests at the event were also treated to a train ride that began at 8:55 pm through all the stations. -BuaNews