The word Afrikaans moltrain conjures up images of a burrowing mole. The fear of big moles – Gautrain’s tunnel-boring machine and the high-speed train itself – keeps the residents of the north of Johannesburg awake.

As the first phase of the integrated Gautrain Rapid Rail network is planned, many residents feel their homes and even their way of life are under threat.

They fear that their foundations will be shaken. The houses “will be permanently devalued and subject to blasting during construction and constant train noise afterwards.”

The planned route does not remain underground. For example, it emerges from the surface at Herlingham, “about 200 m from the Braamfontein stream, and continues as a viaduct (above ground) across the stream”.

It will ruin a lot of property, residents say. Similar concerns have been raised by communities along the proposed route from the Sandton Gautrain station to Cosmo City via the new station at Randburg.

This led to a meeting on Monday between elected provincial and city public representatives and senior officials of the Gauteng Management Agency, including Chief Executive Officer William Dax.

It would be nice to say that we have spoken to the CEO and everything is sorted, there is nothing to worry about. But as Oscar Wilde said, “Truth is seldom pure and never simple.” Gatren is a complex, detailed and emotional topic.

The presented route differs from previous versions of this process, which was launched by the provincial MEC in 2018.

The currently favored route is the sixth alternative after the various options were qualitatively assessed under such headings as ‘conservation statutes’, ‘water areas’ (wetlands), ‘endangered ecosystems’ (threatened), ‘ ridges” (koppi) and soil cover.

Quality assessment criteria and ratings can be challenged both in court and in public hearings.

There will be opportunities for further input despite last week’s submission deadline. We’re told the August 16 deadline only applies to this stage of the process – whatever that means.

There will be a few more steps, more research and “a lot of interaction,” Dachs said. He did not specify a timeline for the completion of the first phase, but it will take several years.

And there is still room for change, within limits. The team reluctantly moves away from the 400-meter-wide corridor. On common maps, the center of the corridor is a red line that marks the last option of the route. The two questions I asked were not satisfactorily answered.

First, apart from the high cost of tunneling, why can’t controversial above-ground sections in established suburbs go underground?

Secondly, why was the shortest direct route from Sandton to Randburg not used? Why is there a deviation from this path in the latest iteration that now goes through three suburbs in my ward? We’re told that the sixth alternative was chosen not because it’s perfect, but because it has the “least impact” compared to the others.

Once we have been told the criteria, we still need to know how they have been weighted so that they can also be challenged if necessary.

The public participation train did not leave the station. Get on board. Express your opinion. Stay tuned for further posts. Send comments to phase1@gautengrapidrail.co.za, Attn: GRRIN Extension Project Manager

READ ALSO: Gautrain bosses bombarded with offers route extension

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