Pretoria - Questions are mounting as to whether the construction of the Gautrain will prove to be a paying proposition for the contractors working on it.
On Wednesday South Africa's largest construction group, Murray & Roberts, reported zero operating profit arising from this project on which it has been working since September 2006.
In its quarterly report in June, Bouygues Construction, Murray & Roberts' French partner, blamed "ongoing problems with the Gautrain" for a 26% decline in that company's operating profit margin.
Murray & Roberts has a 25% stake in the 20-year concession to build and operate the transport system, and Bouygues 17%. Both have a 45% interest in the Bombela Civils Joint Venture, which is building the infrastructure for the R25bn project.
With the announcement of its annual results on Wednesday, Murray & Roberts said the scope and duration of the Gautrain and other mega-projects make it difficult to report revenue in such a way as to avoid benefiting or prejudicing current or future shareholders.
In the case of the Gautrain "delays and disruptions" have led to various unsettled demands and notices of amendment.
What is more, the Gauteng government wants to speed up the first phase to have it ready in time for the World Cup soccer tournament next year. Negotiations in this respect have not yet been finalised.
Bouygues previously declined to expand on its contention, but an official told Sake24 that delays in handing over the building premises had resulted in the French company's resources not being productively employed.
Jack van der Merwe, head of the Gautrain Management Agency, in parliament this week reputedly referred to the negotiations on earlier completion of the first stage. He said that by the middle of October it would become clear whether this was technically possible.
Bombela would then have to quote a price for the work and government would have to decide whether it was affordable.
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