It may not be ready in time for the 2010 World Cup kick-off and questions about its overall viability continue, but the construction of South Africa's much vaunted super train is at last under way.
A consortium to build and manage the project has been selected and a multi-company, multinational group, Bombela, will be in charge of the R20bn ($2.8bn) Gautrain project--an 80km, 10-stop, high-speed rail connection linking Sandton, Johannesburg, Pretoria and the OR Tambo International Airport.
The Gautrain project was an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its commitment to black economic empowerment. Bombela is providing a 25.6% stake for BEE equity participation, allocated 41% of its procurement from BEE companies, and subcontracted 42% of its contracts to BEE companies. Bombela also set aside R54m ($6.16m) for social investment programmes.
The winning company announced that the construction period would last 54 months implying that sections of it that are 2010 World Cup sensitive might be up and running, but no-one is making any promises.
Both the government and the contractors are uncomfortable that the Gautrain seems inextricably linked to the soccer tournament's kick-off. Had things gone smoothly when the project was first mooted seven years ago, Gautrain's construction would have been a lot further down the road than it is today.
Delays and setbacks were legion and included environmental impact studies, objections by property owners along the proposed route, bidder qualification and financial convolution.
The government and contractors prefer to swing the Gautrain spotlight away from...