Water seepage may delay Gautrain

Pretoria – Finality is expected this week on whether an excess of underground water will delay the opening of a portion of the Gautrain rail link between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) is waiting for a submission from the Bombela Consortium, which has built and is managing the rail system, as to how it will improve the waterproofing in the tunnel between the Rosebank and Park stations in Johannesburg, said GMA chief executive Jack van der Merwe.

It’s been known for some time that that the amount of water seeping into the tunnel is above than agreed to in the contract between Bombela and government.

Bombela spokesperson Errol Braithwaite said the water would not affect the operation of the train and was not a safety risk. But in April Van der Merwe said that it could delay the opening of that part of the line.

Carvel Webb, technical adviser to the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), confirmed that the water would not threaten the safety of passengers.

The RSR was aware of the water problem, but was working together with Bombela to finalise tests before issuing a permit for the entire Johannesburg to Pretoria system.

A dispute resolution determined that Bombela should fix the waterproofing, Sake24 understands.

Van der Merwe says that in the long run the excess moisture could damage the infrastructure.

According to Braithwaite, the work can be done only at night when the train does not operate, and is expected to take a couple of months to complete.

The previous idea of opening the affected portion of the line only later is no longer being considered.

It is speculated that government could decide against opening that part of the line before all the work is complete, thus enabling faster completion.

Van der Merwe declined to comment on the risk of opening the entire system with some of the construction work incomplete.

The second stage of the system should have opened in June, but the RSR postponed the opening to July because the tests had not all been completed.

According to Webb, tests are currently under way on whether the system can meet expectations in exceptional conditions.

The longer the opening of the entire rail link takes, the longer it take for Bombela to earn revenue from it.

Van der Merwe declined to comment on the effect on Bombela’s financial model should a portion of the line remain closed for a period for construction work.

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