Web Exclusive: Gautrain Rapid Rail System in South Africa

by Akinboye Oyebode

The Gautrain Rapid Rail System in Gauteng Province, South Africa, was designed to lessen the traffic congestion between Johannesburg and Pretoria, the two major metropolises in the province (ELEVATOR WORLD, August 2010). The rail system includes a direct link from Sandton, the commercial and entertainment heart of Johannesburg, to the OR Tambo International Airport, the main port of entry into South Africa.

The first phase of construction was completed in June 2010, just in time for the 2012 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, and the second phase was completed in July 2011. The entire rail system is 80 km long and capable of traveling at up to 160 kph, thereby decreasing the travel time between Johannesburg and Pretoria. In addition, the travel time from Sandton to the OR Tambo International Airport takes only 15 min.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator South Africa received the contract to design, manufacture, install and maintain 40 elevators and 49 escalators, which serve as the major support for the passenger-conveyor system for the entire Gautrain rail system. ThyssenKrupp Elevator installed 11 escalators that service the main portal of Sandton Station and emergency evacuation shafts, which provide emergency personnel access to the station tunnels. The station is 40 m long, and due to the instability of the structure, it had to be supported by compression struts. The task was to install the 11 escalators from the bottom to the top without coming into contact with any of the struts. Initially, the client was apprehensive regarding the possibility of installing the escalators safely. However, ThyssenKrupp Elevator was able to come up with a viable and safe installation method, and as a result, asked to install three steel staircases (each weighing 35 T) that serve as the station’s emergency-escape route.

The installation of the elevators for the emergency-evacuation shafts was challenging due to the fact the average depth of the shafts was 80 m below ground level, and the working conditions were harsh. ThyssenKrupp Elevator was able to ensure the safe installation and on-time delivery of these lifts.

Akinboye Oyebode was ThyssenKrupp Elevators South Africa’s project manager for the Gautrain Rapid Rail System project. He holds a B.Eng Degree in Mechanical Engineering and Project Management Professional certification.

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