The Johannesburg-Pretoria link of the R26.4-billion Gautrain project would open on August 2, at 05:30, said Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi on Thursday.
He warned, however, that trains would only operate between Rosebank and Hatfield stations, as Park station was still off limits following the more-than-expected water ingress in the tunnel connecting Rosebank and Park stations.
The Gautrain bus service would be fully operational at all nine stations opening on Tuesday, noted Vadi. Buses would also be made available to commuters wishing to travel from Rosebank to the Johannesburg central business district, to cater for Park station's closure.
All Gautrain stations - except Park station - would be open from tomorrow, July 29, for commuters to buy their gold travel cards, and to familiarise themselves with the bus routes, added Bombela Concession Company CEO Jerome Govender.
Bombela is responsible for building and operating the system on behalf of the Gauteng government.
Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO Jack van der Merwe said the system was expected to ramp up to 108 000 passengers a day by the end of January.
The full system had been modelled to reduce road traffic on the Johannesburg-Pretoria corridor by 20%, he added.
The Sandton - OR Tambo International Airport link had been operational since June 2010.
FIXING THE WATER PROBLEM
It was expected that the final leg of the 80 km Gautrain system would open by the end of the year, said Vadi.
This was to accommodate additional engineering works to resolve the water problem.
Negotiations around fixing the water problem had been blamed for the delay in opening phase two of the system, originally scheduled to start operations in March.
Vadi said it had to be first established whether the water ingress in the tunnel was more than the specifications agreed to in the concession agreement between the Gauteng government and Bombela.
Once this had been established, Bombela was asked to submit a tunnel works plan for additional engineering works to be implemented to reduce the volume of ground water seeping into the tunnel.
Ingress was currently measured at six-million litres a day, which were then pumped into the nearby Sandspruit, explained Van der Merwe.
Bombela had a water licence from government to pump 7.5-million litres of water a day into the Sandspruit.
Vadi added that although the water ingress was not within contract specification, the tunnel between Park and Rosebank stations was safe to use. Current concerns were more long-term in nature.
"The Gauteng province and Bombela are concerned about the impact of water ingress - above the agreed-upon levels - on the long-term viability and integrity of the infrastructure. Gautrain has been a huge investment for both parties, and it is [our] responsibility to look after this investment."
The delay in opening the last section of the Gautrain route would allow Bombela to address the ingress in the shortest possible time, said Vadi, with no cost to the province and, therefore, the tax payer.
The cost of fixing the problem was not yet known, said Govender.
"The cost is not fixed. It can only be ascertained when we have completed the work."
"[They] may have to fix it, see how it works, and then go back again," added Van der Merwe,
Penalties payable regarding the more-than-allowed water ingress would be for the account of a number of Bombela subconctractors, said Govender.
He did not want to quantify the penalties to be paid.
The engineering works to fix the problem would include drilling small diameter holes through the tunnel floor and injecting low viscosity grout into the surrounding rock.
This was expected to reduce the permeability of the rock mass and, thus, reduce the water which entered the tunnel drains.
"This is an iterative process and it is difficult to predict how long it will take to achieve the desired results," emphasised Vadi.
He added that the GMA, Gauteng government and Bombela apologised to the public for the delay in opening phase two of the Gautrain.