Following a successfully hosted FIFA Confederations Cup tournament, one point stood out as an issue in need of improvement - transport.
Blatter admitted not everything went right. He said the question of transport and lack of accommodation were two key areas that the 2010 Local Organising Committee would have to rectify before the World Cup kicks off on June 11.
"It was a good Confederations Cup on an off the field. I am more than satisfied and hoping to sit here and award South Africa 10 out of 10 for hosting the World Cup when it ends next July," he explained.
"It is very important for FIFA to host the biggest soccer event in Africa and we know we made the right decision to award it to South Africa.
"But the World Cup is a bigger challenge as regards transport and accommodation. We are expecting about 450 000 soccer tourists and they will need somewhere to sleep and to take them to and from venues. So this is a priority we need to resolve."
Johannesburg's roads are often jam packed with traffic and the eagerly-awaited new bus network, not ready in time for the Confederations Cup, will be essential to helping fans get to and from matches. A chaotic park-and-ride service operating at venues like Ellis Park in Johannesburg and Rustenburg will also need to work better in 2010.
The park-and-ride system was another weakness identified because of the lengthy process of transporting fans back to the different car parks. “Fans use the park-and-ride system over a period of about three hours when they go to the stadiums. Some go early, some go late. But when the game is over, they all leave at the same time, and this caused some congestion at the stadiums, but we are working on resolving the issue,” said LOC head Danny Jordaan.
To this end, Jordaan announced that the South African government is in the process of manufacturing 1,000 additional minibus taxis to transport fans. Along with an improvement to the park and ride situation, Gautrain will have some of its routes up and running by next year’s event. The Gautrain Rapid Rail Link is a state-of-the-art rapid rail network in Gauteng. The rail connection comprises of two links, namely a link between Tshwane (Pretoria) and Johannesburg and a link between OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton.
This modern train will offer international standards of public transport with high levels of safety, reliability and comfort. Travelling at maximum speeds of 160 to 180 kilometres per hour, it will reach Tshwane from Johannesburg in less than 40 minutes. The minimum frequency between Johannesburg and Tshwane will initially be six trains per hour per direction and it will operate approximately 18 hours per day. This public transport service will include dedicated, exclusive bus services to transport passengers to and from stations.
The Gautrain’s airport link is on track for completion by the end of 2009, according to a statement released by the company. This will signal the end of the first phase of the multi-billion-rand rapid transport system. With the 2010 FIFA World Cup a year away, the vital stretch of track between OR Tambo International and Sandton Station will transport an expected 500,000 World Cup visitors between 11 June and 11 July, not to mention 19,000 members of the international press according to FIFA.
Already Johannesburg and Tshwane have been developing their bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. With BRT, the cities aim to provide faster, safer and more reliable transport than current public transport, making it more affordable. It involves the construction of "bus way corridors" on dedicated lanes and modernised technology. In Gauteng the BRT systems will integrate with the Gautrain, and in all cities they will work with already existing public transport programmes, such as Metrorail.
The system is expected to start full operation early in 2010. In Johannesburg, the new system will consist of 330 kilometres of special public transport lanes and intersections, running north and south of the city, and west and east. The BRT foresees exclusive median bus lanes; separate, closed median stations about 500 metres apart; bus frequencies of three to five minutes apart in peak times and 10 minutes apart in off-peak times; a GIS-based control centre; smartcard fare technology; buses running from 5am to midnight; and a model that incorporates incumbent taxi and bus operators.
All of the transport upgrades will allow the World Cup to be held in a country where the public transport system is advanced, and much improved over the current system in place. One of the major legacies left by the hosting of the World Cup in South Africa will be a world-class public transport system.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke will meet with 2001 LOC chief executive officer Danny Jordaan this week to iron out problem areas that were picked up through the test event of the Confederations Cup.
Valcke revealed, "We cannot hide the fact we had problems with the Park and Ride system, the media shuttle and signage did not work. But these are problems we can solve and when we make the draw for the World Cup in Cape Town in December, I hope to have them all solved."
Jordaan is focused on what lies ahead, and transport will be a key issue with the first African World Cup within view, but if plans and work thus far are anything to go by, the transport situation will be under control by 2010. "Hosting the Confederations Cup was the first small step to staging a successful World Cup. But we are on track. There are a lot of challenges ahead and we will meet them head on," he said.
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com