Leaks keep Gautrain link closed

2 May 2012

The Rosebank to Johannesburg Park Station section of the South Africa’s 15km Gautrain tunnel is destined to remain closed pending a full solution to its water leakage problem, which continues to be a major point of dispute between the project concessionaire, Bombela, and the provincial government-led Gautrain Management Agency (GMA).

Barbara Jensen, Gautrain communications and marketing manager, has reiterated the GMA position that the problem of leaks through the tunnel walls had not been solved. Bombela is responsible for construction, operation and maintenance of the route through its 14-year concession whilst the provincial government owns the system through GMA, its agent.

According to the GMA the water inflow is still four times that agreed with the contractor as acceptable. Concern has been expressed about possibly resulting damage to the train system and removing groundwater from vegetation at the surface.

Bombela recently invited the media on a train test run through the line section in dispute, claiming that the trains were ready and that all was required was permission to start operations, and that the water problems had been ‘addressed’. Bombela spokesperson Errol Braithwaite said that the tunnel invert had been grouted to prevent water leaks, and that water coming through the walls was ‘minimal and normal’.

A statement issued by Jack van der Merwe, CEO of GMA said, “Last year Bombela was directed by the Dispute Resolution Board to remedy the situation so as to meet the specification for tunnel water inflow as set out in the contract between the province and Bombela. To date this has not been achieved.

“What this means is that, while Bombela may be able to manage the excessive quantity of water flowing into the tunnel and provide the train services in the short term, but up to the present time it has not provided any credible assurances to the province that the excessive amount of water will not cause irreparable harm to the tunnel itself and the environment around it on the long term.”

French contractor Bouygues leads Bombela, and Atkins designed the tunnel. Other sections of the 77-km Gautrain system were opened last August.