The use of mapping technology has been vital in the planning of the Gautrain and will be an integral part of the transport system after its launch.
Planning the Gautrain through a heavily populated Gauteng has been a challenging process requiring careful consideration of current and future developments and road infrastructure. To assist in the planning of the task, Gautrain utilised the services of location-based services company, AfriGIS.
Magnus Rademeyer, AfriGIS MD, says the Gautrain project used mapping in a number of ways. The total length of the completed network will be 80km with 10 stations on the line between Johannesburg, Pretoria and the OR Tambo International Airport. A great deal of planning, therefore, went into the route and how the current infrastructure would be affected.
"Firstly, maps were used to plan the route of the train. Then they were utilised to identify exactly which properties and roads would be affected by the line and the various stations. The mapping technology was also integrated into the Gautrain website (www.gautrain.co.za).
"In addition, AfriGIS used Google Earth to visually display the route on the Gautrain website and additional information about the stations," he says.
The online map found on the Gautrain website was developed by AfriGIS. It allows people to see the route and zoom in right down to detailed street names and stand numbers. The map includes detail such as stations and affected properties and also provides search functionality to show people directions from their homes to the nearest station. The map is interactive and can be viewed as a map or as a displayed image, which people can zoom in and out of.
The other interesting option on the Gautrain website is the Goggle Earth tool. Google Earth displays satellite imagery and the route has been mapped onto imagery taken from Google Earth, allowing people to view the route from different angles.
"Each station has been marked on this map and clicking on a station brings up various options including more information on that station, detailed photographs of construction progress and an artists' impression of what the station will look like," he says.
Barbara Jensen, from the Gautrain communication team, says that, along with the tools on the website, the mapping technology was also used by the Gautrain call centre agents to assist people who wanted to know how they would be affected.
"Furthermore, the technology was used in the extensive planning process around the construction sites, which roads were affected as well as being used in the planning of alternative routes around stations while construction is in process," she says.
For example, at the Rosebank station, traffic from Oxford Road was diverted around the construction site with various roads being changed to one way streets to accommodate the change. While Oxford Road was never closed, but simply became very narrow past the construction site, the alternative route remains popular.
Looking into the future, mapping technology will also be used for the transport system supporting the Gautrain, Jensen says.
"There will be a dedicated fleet of 125 Gautrain dedicated buses fanning out on major routes from each station, taking passengers to and from the Gautrain which will be able to carry more than 100 000 passengers per day in each direction between Johannesburg and Tshwane," she says.
As the Gautrain bus service launches, new routes will be added on a regular basis and existing routes will be updated based on demand.
"We're looking at ways of utilising mapping technology for bus routes. So, for example, the bus routes could possibly be posted on the website and would also be made available at stations and other points so that commuters will know exactly where the buses travel to and which route is best suited to them," she says.
Passengers will not have to wait long for the train which will have 24 sets of four rails cars each travelling on the line making a total of 96 cars on the track. A journey for a passenger from OR Tambo to Sandton will take 12 minutes or less while the journey between Johannesburg and Tshwane should take 42 minutes.
Points of interest will also be used extensively once the Gautrain begins operation to assist people at each station with services that may interest them, Rademeyer says.
"For example, tourists coming from the OR Tambo International Airport may want to find their hotel in Sandton or find the closest place to do their shopping. Location-based services and mapping will help people to orientate themselves and find what they are looking for," Rademeyer says.