...short runways cannot accommodate today’s super-jumbo jets. ACSA and Dube TradePort commissioned Osmond Lange Architects and Planners, Johannesburg, to design the new terminal, with the Illembe consortium handling engineering, design, construction and maintenance.

The Illembe team includes Johannesburg-area contractors Group Five and WBHO. The firms were involved in construction of three of the soccer stadiums: Cape Town Stadium, Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban and Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

As the new airport’s business takes off, TradePort hopes to tie in cargo business to a North Coast rail link, but plans have not yet been finalized.

Get on Board

Back in Johannesburg, an 80-km rapid-transit rail system, called the Guatrain, is on schedule, according to officials with Bombela Concession Co., the group building the line that will connect the city, South Africa’s commercial center, to the country’s administrative capital, Pretoria.

After receiving national government approval in 2005, Gauteng Province granted Bombela a 20-year license to design, build, partially finance and operate the transit system under the largest public-private partnership in Africa. Current cost estimates are $3.4 billion.

Murray & Roberts Ltd., the Johannesburg-based general contractor, has a 50% share in the consortium. The Strategic Partners Group, the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) partner, owns a 25% share. (The government set up BEE as an affirmative-action program to redress economic and managerial inequalities created under apartheid.)

Other Bombela shareholders include Bombardier UK, which is providing the train sets; French transportation civil engineer Bouygues Travaux Publics; and two South African financial concerns, BEE holding company J&J Group and Absa Capital, a unit of Barclays Bank.

Like most megaprojects, the Gautrain draws controversy. Besides the cost, critics say the electricity required to reach a 160 km-per-hr top speed comes from coal, making the Gautrain a net polluter. They also say the route avoids crowded poor neighborhoods with subpar public transport.

Backers counter that the Gautrain always was intended to parallel the N1 motorway, giving travelers a cleaner, faster alternative to automotive travel. The rapid-transport bus system will serve the 10 train stations, providing access to a broad span of urban districts.

The project is a major civil-engineering undertaking: 16 viaducts with a combined length exceeding 10 km, some 50 bridges and 15 km of tunnels—3 km of them bored by an earth- pressure-balanced Herrenkneckt machine imported from Europe. The Sandton station is 45 meters below grade.

Bombela has filed a huge claim—reportedly $1.3 billion—against the owner, citing delays in the turnover of property along the rights-of-way and other actions. Gautreng Province says it is without merit. Regardless, both sides say that the dispute will not delay the June 8 opening of the first segment, from O.R. Tambo International Airport to Sandton. “We’re all moving heaven and earth to make the [World Cup] a success,” says Errol Braithwaite, Bombela technical executive.

That’s just three days before the World Cup kicks off and South Africa’s progress becomes a subject of discussion along with the games being held on the grass playing fields.