South Africa Set for High-speed Rail Network
    2011-01-28 01:56:35     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhangxu

A multibillion-rand high- speed rail network for South Africa is likely to be approved by the country's cabinet this year, the Business Report newspaper in Johannesburg reported on Thursday.

The proposed rail network, inspired by a visit to China by South African Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele, is part of South Africa's National Transport Master Plan (Natmap).

This plan aims to reduce congestion on South Africa's roads and cut the cost of public transport.

The newspaper said the Natmap, which has the potential to drive up construction activity and job creation like the 2010 FIFA World Cup did for South Africa, suggested a sequenced delivery process for South Africa's rail sector over a 20-year period.

Included in the rail network will be high-speed rail projects from Johannesburg to Durban (566 km), Johannesburg to Cape Town (1, 264 km), Johannesburg to Musing (520 km) and a rail corridor between Tshwane and Moloto in South Africa's Mpumalanga province.

The deputy director-general for transport logistics and corridor development in South Africa's department of transport, Mawethu Vilana, said a feasibility study on the network was yet to be done.

Project costs and funding options available would help ascertain whether it was something that South Africa could afford.

In 2010, reports in South Africa estimated that the high-speed rail link between Durban and Johannesburg could cost 30 billion U. S. dollars. The South African government was reported to be in talks with China Railway Group about building the rail link.

A senior economist at South Africa's Econometrix, Tony Twine, said costs would vary on each route, depending on the engineering required.

He said it was not ideal for a modern traveler or commuter to drive around between South Africa cities as was the case now.

"It makes a lot of these places reachable more conveniently and potentially cheaper than air travel," he said.

The chief executive of the Railroad Association of South Africa, John Thompson, said the rail network was a good plan for the country.

"Pretoria to Moloto makes a lot of sense because it takes a lot of the buses off the roads and reduces accidents," said Thompson. "But are you going to be able to fill the trains between Johannesburg and Cape Town?"

Many questions remains unanswered, which he hopes the business plan for the network would clarify, Thompson added.


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