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Gautrain logo.svg
Gautrain..., O R Tambo Intl Airport South Africa.jpg
OwnerGauteng province
LocaleGauteng, South Africa
Transit typeCommuter rail
Number of stations10
Began operation7 June 2012
Operator(s)Bombela Operating Company (RATP Dev)
Number of vehicles24 Bombardier Electrostar Sets[1]
System length80 km (50 mi)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge
Electrification25 kV AC
Top speed160 km/h (99 mph)
System map

parallel to
Metrorail tracks
Loftus Versveldpark
Walker Street
Devenish Street
Mears Street
parallel to
Metrorail tracks
Viaduct 7
Viaduct 6
Viaduct 5
Viaduct 4
Viaduct 3
Viaduct 2
OR Tambo
International Airport
↑ to Pretoria
↓ to Johannesburg
Viaduct 15
Viaduct 14
Viaduct 13
Viaducts 1 & 11
Park Station

Gautrain is an 80-kilometre (50 mi) commuter rail system in Gauteng, South Africa, which links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekurhuleni and O. R. Tambo International Airport. It was built to relieve the traffic congestion in the Johannesburg–Pretoria traffic corridor and offer commuters a viable alternative to road transport, as Johannesburg has limited public transport infrastructure. The project was completed with the opening on 7 June 2012 of the final section between Rosebank and Johannesburg Park Station,[2] which had been delayed by problems with excess water seeping into the tunnel between the two stations.[3]

Gauteng's Gautrain[edit]

The Gauteng Provincial Government formed a partnership with local and international experts in business[when?] to build a modern transport network, the biggest public–private partnership in Africa.[4]

The train is expected to cut the number of cars on the N1 Ben Schoeman Highway by 20%, with 100,000 daily passenger trips.[5]

The Gauteng Department of Transport obtained environmental authorization and conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this purpose. Authorisation was granted on 25 April 2004. On 7 December 2005 the South African government gave the go-ahead for the project, expected to cost more than 24 billion Rand.

In February 2006, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced the allocation of R7.1 billion from the National Fiscus for Gautrain. On 16 February 2006 then Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa announced that the Gauteng Province had reached commercial close with the Bombela Consortium, the preferred bidder, and that negotiations to reach financial close commenced.

Construction started on 28 September 2006, and investors, developers, small businesses, and entrepreneurs are starting new ventures such as office blocks, shopping malls, entertainment, and residential developments along Gautrain’s network. The demand for land as well as property prices in these areas increased dramatically.[6][7][8]

Lightstone, an independent risk assessment company, has analyzed residential transactions and repeat sales price inflation of properties within 2 to 3 kilometres (1.2 to 1.9 miles) of each station, and compared this with the overall price inflation in Gauteng, Johannesburg, and Pretoria. The proportion of all transactions in Gauteng involving properties within 2 km (1.2 mi) of the station grew from 3.8% to 6.0% from 2000 to 2007, while activity in areas between 2 and 3 km (1.2 and 1.9 mi) from the stations remained relatively constant between 4.0% and 5.0% over that same period.[9]

Future projections for business transactions and access to new markets for products, goods and services as a result of the Gautrain network is R6 billion. Sustainability of the transport service and city rejuvenation are key to Gautrain’s success.

Gautrain further achieved important objectives described in Gauteng’s Growth and Development Strategy. It included requirements for Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment in terms of broadening ownership and control; skills transfer and preferential procurement. Emphasis was also placed on the empowerment of women, youth and people living with disabilities.[10]


The project was announced in 2000, before South Africa won the rights to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[11]

In 2006 the province signed a 20‑year PPP contract with the Bombela Concession Co consortium, which includes Murray & Roberts, empowerment organisation Strategic Partners Group, Bombardier, Bouygues, and various minority shareholders.[11]


The rail system was built by Bombela Consortium,[12] a partnership between Bombardier Transportation, Bouygues Travaux Publics, Murray & Roberts, the Strategic Partners Group and RATP Group, the J&J Group, and Absa Bank.[13] It is 50% owned by its international partners and 50% by Murray & Roberts and the Strategic Partners Group, the consortium's black economic empowerment component. Initial works for the Gautrain started in May 2006 and construction commenced after the signing of the Concession Agreement between the Gauteng Provincial Government and the Bombela Concession Company on 28 September 2006.

The project was constructed simultaneously in two phases. The first phase involved the section between OR Tambo International Airport, Sandton and Midrand,[14] the second the remainder. The construction of the first phase was scheduled to take 45 months, the second was for 54 months,[14] with completion in 2010 and 2011.

The agreement provided for a R150 million incentive for the Gautrain to open in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[14] However, Gautrain was not built for the World Cup – it was conceived prior to that.[15][16]

However, in November 2009, the Bombela Concessionaire proposed a new, less expensive plan for the route between OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton to be in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[17][18]

Construction technology[edit]

By the end of May 2008, nearly a third of tunnelling was completed,[19] and excavation of the tunnels was completed on 11 September 2009.[20]

A mixed-face Earth Pressure Balance Shield Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) was designed and built in Germany by Herrenknecht specifically to cope with complex underground conditions and was the first such machine employed in South Africa. The TBM, named Imbokodo (meaning "rock"),[21] installs pre-cast concrete tunnel lining segments behind it as it moves forward. It leaves behind a watertight and smooth lining to the 6.8 m (22 ft 4 in) diameter tunnel.[22][23][24]

Opening to passenger traffic[edit]

Sandton Gautrain Station in August 2010

The first public passenger trip was made on 3 February 2009 by 150 people on a 3 km (2 mi) test track at the depot.[25][26][27]

The first part of the system, between Sandton and OR Tambo Airport, opened to the public on 8 June 2010, in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[28] The route from Rosebank to Pretoria and Hatfield commenced operations on 2 August 2011, while the remaining section from Rosebank south to Johannesburg Park Station opened on 7 June 2012,[2] due to higher than anticipated underground water ingress into the railway tunnel.[29]


Total route length - 80 km (50 mi)[30] (including 15 km (9.3 mi) underground)[31]
Off-peak frequency – 1 train per 20 min[32]
Peak frequency – 1 train per 10 min[32]


Gautrain tracks in Midrand

Although the national railway network in South Africa uses the 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) Cape gauge, Gautrain is built with the more expensive international standard gauge of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in). According to the Gautrain planning and implementation study,[33] this is done for several reasons, including that broader gauge is safer and more comfortable to passengers. The rolling stock is also easier, quicker and less expensive to obtain than Cape gauge rolling stock, and is also less expensive to maintain, as it is more tolerant of track imperfections than Cape Gauge. The 1435 mm gauge allows for travel at Gautrain's required speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). The overhead line voltage is 25 kV alternating current (AC) as is standard in many countries.

Although increased flexibility could be obtained by keeping the system interoperable with the South African railway system, a strong case exists for keeping Gautrain separate from the existing network. According to the Gautrain planning and implementation study, an interoperable network may impact service delivery, increase the operating cost and tarnish Gautrain's image.[citation needed] Gautrain's rolling stock will be used only on the new tracks. An interoperable network might also increase safety requirements, as existing steam and diesel trains would be able to access the new network.


Gautrain route network

The rail network is 80 kilometres long and is connected to other forms of public transport like taxis, buses and the Metrorail public train system. Commuters can also use several Gautrain buses to destinations within a 15 kilometre radius.[34]

Travelling at up to 160 kilometres per hour, Gautrain takes 35 minutes[35] to travel between Johannesburg and Pretoria. From Sandton to the OR Tambo International Airport takes 15 minutes,[35] and provision has been made for air passengers to remotely check in at Sandton Station in future.[36]

Fares on the Johannesburg/Pretoria route are between R21.00 and R53.00, depending on distance. The fare on the Gautrain Bus Link is R6.00 (R20.00 if the train is not used within one hour of the bus journey).[32] The method of payment on Gautrain buses uses the same personalized electronic ticket as for train travel, requiring a minimum balance of R20.00 for boarding a bus. Special discounts apply on the purchase of weekly and monthly passes as well as the use of the train during off-peak periods. Tickets can only be purchased at stations and selected retail outlets[37] and not on any bus.


Security cameras are operational and security guards patrol all the stations and parking areas. Only passengers who have an electronic ticket have access to Gautrain’s stations and the parking areas. Motorists can travel to the stations and leave their cars at the safe parking bays that are next to the train stations. Parking at the stations costs R21 a day, however if a passenger does not remove their vehicle within an hour after arriving at the station, they will be charged R100. Car rental offices are also planned at stations.[38]

Ten stations are in operation:

Various South African & international engineering disciplines and engineering firms collaborated in the design of the system as a whole. Midrand, Centurion and Pretoria stations were designed by Terry Farrell of England.[39] Each platform is 160 metres in length.[39] Marlboro, Rhodesfield and ORTIA stations (OR Tambo International Airport internal fitout and platform envelope) were designed by Jaco Groenewald (architect) and GAJV team. The ORTIA station envelope was designed by Izi Martinez (architect) during the OR Tambo International Airport upgrade. Rosebank and Johannesburg Park stations were designed by Atkins - Urban Edge architects joint venture.

Rolling stock[edit]

An Electrostar in the depot

Bombardier Transportation's Electrostar, a model of train common in south-east England, was selected for the system.[40] Fifteen cars were manufactured and were assembled by Bombardier's Derby Litchurch Lane Works in England, with the remaining cars assembled by the Union Carriage & Wagon in South Africa using structural components made in England.[41] Gautrain has 24 trains, each made up with four cars: 19 trains service the commuter network and five the airport link;[42] the latter consists of forward rail cars specially adapted for the airport link with storage area for luggage and more luxurious seating.[43]

On 8 July 2008 the first train was handed over to the Gauteng Premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, in a ceremony in Derby. The last was delivered in December 2010.[44]

A diagram of the Gautrain's Electrostar, made up of four cars.


Much of the criticism is that money is being spent on the rich at the expense of the poor.[45] Critics contend that it does not serve any of the townships of Gauteng where the transport problem is severe and where the majority of the people live. However, supporters maintain that the train was never meant to be an alternative to mass public transport; instead, it was intended to reduce pressure on Johannesburg's overloaded highway system. Figures released by the Gauteng provincial government in 2003 indicated that the project would do little to relieve traffic on the over-used Ben Schoeman Highway (one of the major motivations for the project), as traffic volumes would be higher when the Gautrain was completed and operating at full capacity in 2010.[46] Leftist political groupings like the SACP and labour movements like COSATU branded the Gautrain as a train for the rich and called on government not to proceed with the project. A national parliamentary oversight body, the Transport Portfolio Committee, held public hearings in November 2005 and subsequently advised Cabinet to scrap or postpone the project. However, National Cabinet decided on 7 December 2005 to financially support Gautrain.


Critics have questioned ridership estimates, stating that government officials almost always overestimate ridership to gain political approval for projects, and cite numerous international examples where similar projects operate at massive losses or were aborted. However, by October 2010, passenger numbers were in line with previous predictions, and growing.[47] Within 100 days of opening the first phase of the system for the public, 1 million passengers were recorded.[48] As of February 2013, passenger volume was around 40 000 per day by train and 12 000 by bus. This is lower than expected in terms of passenger numbers, but this is partially offset by a longer average trip length (50 km vs the expected 30 km). Peak volumes are higher than expected, though, which can be addressed by adding more coaches during peak times, and reducing the headway between trains from 12 to 10 minutes ahead of the intended 2015 schedule. Tolling on Gauteng highways is also expected to lead to higher passenger numbers.[49]

Alternative transportation projects[edit]

Critics[who?] pointed out that the project would use the majority of available national and provincial transport funds in a context where massive amounts were needed to deal with widespread traffic congestion and commuter transport problems nationally and in the province. The existing railway system in the province, under national rather than provincial control, which serves the majority of the population, was severely underfunded and large-scale and violent public unrest caused by inadequate and old trains had manifested in the province. Critics alleged that options like rapid bus transit could achieve similar levels of service at a fraction of the costs, however, the estimated 62,000 daily riders requires a capacity unfeasible by BRT.[50] These matters were never submitted to a public debate as the project was designed and launched within the confines of the Gauteng Government bureaucracy.[citation needed]

Environmental issues[edit]

The environmental benefits of the project are also disputed and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) revealed that Gautrain would at best be environmentally neutral. South Africa uses coal-based electricity generation and the electricity required for Gautrain would come from outside the Gauteng region. The pollution associated with the generation of this electricity would therefore effectively be exported to the Mpumalanga region, an area already under severe strain from air pollution. According to the Gautrain's website, the Gautrain has half the carbon footprint versus a motor vehicle.

In November 2005 Dunkeld community in Johannesburg decided to contest the alignment in its suburb. Legal action launched by the Muckleneuk / Lukasrand Property Owners and Residents Association (MLPORA) in 2004 (Case No. 28192/04) and an urgent application launched by MLPORA in 2006 went before the High Court of South Africa on 1 August 2006. MLPORA inter alia opposed the original environmental authorisation granted and the legality of the procedures being followed to approve variant alignments proposed by Bombela. In Pretoria the Gautrain skirts the inner city and cuts through the city's second oldest suburb (Muckleneuk) and high-density residential areas and the middle of the city's educational precinct on its way to Hatfield. The alignment as proposed would result in the prevention of the future development of the cities' education precinct, an urban district with the potential to become a space of national significance. Legal action was also brought by AECI in January 2006 which had not yet gone before court. Approximately 10% of the route traverses AECI-owned land. A dispute with the Centurion Association for a Reasonable Environment (WeCARE) was settled in favour of WeCARE in March 2006. Further legal challenges were expected.

Critics question the growth and job creation benefits that the project will bring. The EIA for the project determined that it is a poorly performing public sector investment project. The project sponsors have been silent on the social benefits that could be gained from alternative public sector investment programmes.

On 29 January 2006 the draft environmental reports on possible variant routes were released for public comment, without prior warning, with 30 days to comment on them. The variant alignment proposals are primarily cost-cutting measures proposed by the concessionaire, Bombela. Acceptance of these proposals will lower overall project costs and raise their profits. The released draft EIA reports were compiled by experts without public participation and are being fast tracked through the system by the Gauteng Government. Environmental management plans (EMPs) have already been compiled for these route variants. In law EMPs are meant to mitigate environmental impacts identified in consultation with affected parties. The decision to approve the released EIAs and EMPs vests with the sphere of government that is bringing the project application, namely the Gauteng Government. The process followed raised serious questions regarding the audi alteram principle and the protection of the environmental rights of the public. The thirty-day window is, critics believe, not enough time to make a comprehensive response to the highly technical draft environmental reports.

The proposed route variants were in Hatfield, Centurion, Salvokop, Marlboro and Sandton.


The project is the largest and costliest transport infrastructure project ever proposed by the provincial government but was never discussed in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature or submitted to any significant public debate before it was approved and put out to tender. Initial cost estimates came in at some R3.5 - 4 billion in 2000 when the project was announced by Premier Shilowa. This figure was revised upwards to R 7 billion for the purposes of the EIA process in 2003 and was finally revealed as being R20 billion (US$3.7 billion) in 2005, after the successful bidder for the project was announced and a contract came into existence.[51] National and provincial government will contribute R20 billion in equal proportions and Bombela will contribute the balance of direct project costs. Loan funding will constitute a large part of these amounts but the financing costs involved have not been stated. The sunk costs for the project will be more than R20 billion. In March 2008, Jeremy Cronin, chairman of the National Assembly's transport portfolio committee and deputy secretary-general of the SACP, complained that the cost had apparently quietly crept up to R35 billion.[52] Cronin has long opposed the project and told the SA Parliament's lower house during a budget debate that his information was that the project's cost was escalating “quietly and below the radar screen”, though MPs “were told, hand on heart, here in Parliament just a few years ago, what the written-in-stone absolute upper limit was [R20 billion]". The Gautrain management agency CEO, Jack van der Merwe, has subsequently denied this, stating that the project is a fixed-price, fixed-scope and fixed-period contract, and that the price will only increase if the consumer price index increased above the South African Reserve Bank's prediction, if the Gauteng Province were in breach of contract, or if the project's scope were to change.[53]

Cost Estimates and Timeline[edit]

Year Estimated Cost
2002 R3.5 billion
2003 R7 billion
2005 R20 billion
2006 R25.2 billion, approved [53][54]
2010 R26 billion [55]
2011 R25.4 billion [56] ($3.66 billion)[57]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Gautrain Completes its Last Rail Car". Official Gautrain Website. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ a b "Gautrain Park Station opens". Independent Online. SAPA. 6 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Gautrain: Joburg to Pretoria line ready". Business Report. 28 July 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  4. ^ "Gautrain moves forward with the 'big lady'". The Good News South Africa. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ "Why a rapid rail system?". Official Gautrain Website. Archived from the original on 3 November 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2008.
  6. ^ Khumalo, Sibongile (4 May 2008). "Development rush rides on Gautrain". Business Report.
  7. ^ Cox, Anna (30 July 2007). "Gautrain could mean big bucks for residents".
  8. ^ "Rosebank — future perfect". 3 July 2008.
  9. ^ "Gautrain — Already showing impact on property prices - 27 February 2008" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  10. ^ Sapa (21 April 2008). "Monitoring group for Gautrain". The Mercury.
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ Lucille, Davie (9 August 2005). "Gauteng's bullet train on track".
  13. ^ Venter, Irma (6 March 2009). "Gautrain CEO speaks on deadlines, costs and ticket prices". Engineering News.
  14. ^ a b c Zhuwakinyu, Martin. "No contract stipulating that any part of Gautrain be completed by 2010". Creamer Media's Engineering News. Retrieved 29 March 2008.
  15. ^ "No guarantee Gautrain will be ready for 2010". Mail & Guardian. Mail & Guardian. 11 October 2006.
  16. ^ "Statement by Jack vd Merwe". Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Gautrain route between OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton may be ready for 2010 Soccer World Cup". Official Gautrain Website. 18 January 2011.
  18. ^ Newmarch, Jocelyn (18 November 2009). "Bombela in bid to meet World Cup deadline". Business Day.
  19. ^ Venter, Irma (6 June 2008). "Nearly a third of Gautrain tunnel work completed". Engineering News Online.
  20. ^ "Gautrain celebrates major milestone as 15,5km tunnel is completed". Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  21. ^ Davie, Lucille (14 December 2007). "Gautrain rock arrives for duty". City of Johannesburg website. Retrieved 2010-05-11. Archived from the original on 15 July 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  22. ^ Venter, Irma (18 January 2008). "Tunnel-boring machine embarks on 14-month odyssey". Engineering News Online.
  23. ^ Erasmus, Janine (17 June 2008). "Gautrain steaming ahead".
  24. ^ van der Merwe, Christy (13 December 2007). "Gautrain to start tunnelling with 'Imbokodo' machine in January". Engineering News Online.
  25. ^ McAuliffe, Louise (4 February 2009). "Gautrain's first historic journey". Sowetan.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Evans, Sally (4 February 2009). "First Gautrain taken out of wraps". The Times.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ Davie, Lucille (4 February 2009). "Smooth first ride on Gautrain". City of Johannesburg. Archived from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  28. ^ Smith, David (8 June 2010). "Welcome aboard the Gautrain, Africa's first high-speed urban train". The Guardian. London.
  29. ^ Venter, Irma. "Phase two of Gautrain to open on August 2 − but only to Rosebank". Creamer Media. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Project details". Official Bombela Website. Archived from the original on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  32. ^ a b c "Gautrain Guide" (PDF). Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  33. ^ "Gautrain Rapid Rail Link: Planning and Implementation Study" (PDF). Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
  34. ^ "Quick and punctual bus link". Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  35. ^ a b "Gautrain Fares and Time Tables" (PDF). Official Gautrain Website. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  36. ^ "Sandton Station". Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  37. ^ "General Information". Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  38. ^ "Car rental at Gautrain stations". Railways in South Africa. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  39. ^ a b Archived 26 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ "Bombardier Selected Preferred Bidder For Rapid Rail System In South Africa" (Press release). Bombardier. 2 July 2005. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  41. ^ "The Production Process: Typical Electrostar Rail Cars and Gautrain Electrostar Cars". Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  42. ^ "Gautrain's unique rail car features". Official Gautrain Website. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2008.
  43. ^ "Look and feel". Official Gautrain Website. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  44. ^ "Gautrain Rolling Stock Order Complete". Railways Africa. 11 December 2010. Archived from the original on 21 December 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  45. ^ Celean, Jacobson (27 November 2005). "No reversing Gautrain". Sunday Times.
  46. ^ "Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport on the Public Hearings on the Proposed Gautrain Project". Parliamentary Monitoring Group. 16 November 2005.
  47. ^ "Gautrain patronage". Railways Africa. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  48. ^ "Gautrain celebrates one million passengers". Gautrain. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  49. ^ Venter, Irma (8 February 2013). "Gautrain passenger numbers tick up, but below initial estimates". Creamer Media's Engineering News. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  50. ^ Lloyd, Wright (8 November 2005). "Mass-Transit Alternative for Gauteng". BusinessDay.
  51. ^ Anna, Cox (1 November 2005). "Shilowa's R20bn silence". The Star.
  52. ^ Linda, Ensor (19 March 2008). "Gautrain could cost R35bn — Cronin". Business Day.
  53. ^ a b Olivier, Mariaan (20 March 2008). "Gautrain agency dismisses claims that project's costs surged to R35bn". Creamer Media's Engineering News.
  54. ^ Hamlyn, Michael. "Gautrain to cost R25.5bn". Fin24. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  55. ^ Mahlong, Audra. "Gautrain ready for 2010". ITWeb. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  56. ^ Venter, Irma (27 May 2011). "Countdown begins as Gautrain steams towards June deadline". Engineering News. Creamer Media. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  57. ^ Dixon, Robyn (9 June 2010). "High-speed train gives South Africa a lift". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 May 2011.

External links[edit]