Renovations at Doornfontein station, one of Johannesburg's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ projects, are progressing well and work is expected to be completed before the FIFA Confederations Cup kickoff in June this year.

Just a stone's throw from Ellis Park, a host stadium for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Confederations Cup, taking place from 14 to 28 June 2009, the train station is being transformed into a two storey, state-of-the-art station that will have a lasting impact on the city long after the final match on 11 July 2010.

Site engineer Letsatsi Ramookho says work on the station, budgeted at 74 million rand, started in April 2008 and is expected to be completed by 30 May 2009. The 88 workers on site are working round the clock to ensure the station is finished on time.

"Extensions have been done to the platforms to bring them up to international standards. The platform was lifted to 910mm from the top of the rail lines to make them friendly to paraplegics."

Once work is finished, there will be controlled access for commuters, with travellers able to access the four platforms from one floor to ensure optimal safety.

Ramookho says commuters will enter the station via the first floor, buy their tickets and go through the turnstiles and proceed down to the ground floor and the platforms, ensuring only people who are travelling have access to the platforms.

"The ticket offices, retail shops, and public toilets will be on the top floor. The station will also be serviced by three elevators, including one especially reserved for paraplegics."

As it is a working station, demolition of the old ablution blocks, ticket office and an overhead steel bridge was a complicated affair, involving closing one section of the railway lines so that trains could continue operating on other sections.

"Even during construction, we have to make sure that at least three of the four lines passing through the station are open. Closing two or more can cause major disruptions to traffic flow," says Ramookho.

To ensure the safety of workers and the smooth running of trains through the station, 12 people were trained as flagmen to control traffic, all of whom were recruited locally. The flag operators are always on duty during construction, indicating to train drivers to slow down as they passed through the station and to construction workers that trains were coming.

Construction operations also have to take into account the live electric cables running through the station. "For the first time in South African rail history, we were allowed to use cranes over live cables to enable the cranes to operate efficiently".

To make sure the trains move freely underneath while construction continues, a bondeck slab was constructed which eliminated the need for temporary propping.

The roof of the new station will be a masterpiece, according to Ramookho, who says it will be staggered, allowing natural light to filter in. "A big clock will be placed on the northern wall of the station facing the station precinct".

When finished, the Doornfontein station will replace the Ellis Park Station which will be closed down because of its close proximity to Ellis Park Stadium.

"A walking precinct will be constructed from the train station to Ellis Park Stadium, which is about 200 metres away. The precinct will be well-lit and will be monitored by CCTV cameras," said Ramookho.

The Doornfontein Station will form part of the Ellis Park precinct, a secure, safe, vibrant and sustainable destination of choice for sports and recreation.

During the FIFA World Cup, a greater emphasis will be placed on moving a large number of people around the city. The Doornfontein Station will serve commuters from Tshwane, Vereeniging and Ekurhuleni, according to Ramookho.

Ndaba Dlamini