Cranes, concrete, steel, the constant hum of earthmoving vehicles and the bright vests and hard hats of construction workers are the scenes South African residents are confronted with on a daily basis. The country is readying itself to host the world's biggest sporting spectacular in 2010, but the action is certainly not limited to the stadiums.
As the FIFA Secretary General, Jerome Valcke, other visiting FIFA staff and international journalists saw today on a visit to some of the many transport projects underway in Johannesburg in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, South Africa is transforming by the day to be ready to welcome the world in 564 days time.
"What we are seeing is a revolution in public transport in South Africa," said South African Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe, who led the visit. "The current transport plans are unprecedented, with a total of R170 billion allocated to transport projects."
The R170 billion spend includes R70 billion for roads, R20 billion for airport expansion (including multi-billion rand expansion projects at Johannesburg's Oliver Tambo International airport and Cape Town International airport and the building of a new airport at La Mercy, north of Durban), R18 billion on passenger rail, R25 billion on rapid rail link, Gautrain, and R26 billion on freeways. In total, R13.6 billion has been allocated specifically for FIFA World Cup projects.
"It is always the concern that events like these are put together at huge cost and then the infrastructure is not used. What we have seen today is that all these transport systems will change the face of South Africa. This is the legacy of the World Cup," said Valcke at a press conference after the tour.
While many of the transport projects were already planned, the hosting of the FIFA World Cup has certainly accelerated their rollout. "This money would potentially have been spent over ten or fifteen years but the Government now has an obligation to deliver to us the infrastructure we require," said Valcke.
The visitors were given a glimpse of the extensive list of projects which includes new and upgraded train stations close to World Cup stadiums and the overhaul of train coaches to ensure a first-world experience; the development of South Africa's first rapid rail link, the Gautrain; a new bus system that will see buses travelling on bus-only roadways between secure stations with platform level boarding; the development of inter-modal facilities to ensure a seamless transport experience; major upgrades to highways and roads; and the use of intelligent transport systems to manage traffic congestion.
The action is certainly not confined to Johannesburg. Transport Director General Mpumi Mpofu outlined the plans underway in each and every host city in order to ensure the smooth movement of fans come 2010.
Mpofu made it clear that the planning stages were over. "By the end of this year construction on every piece of planned infrastructure has to have started". The focus now is on detailed planning for the moving of officials, teams and fans from the airport to accommodation to stadiums and between host cities.