‘Reconsider rail project’

2010-10-02 00:00

THE government’s proposed high speed commuter rail project between Durban and Johannesburg would probably not be able to compete effectively with other modes of transport — particularly air transport — unless it was subsidised.

This is according to Pietermaritzburg economist Clive Coetzee, who believes that a Durban-Pietermaritzburg high speed rail link could be a more necessary and viable option.

He was speaking at a Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) Local Economic Development (LED) forum this week.

It is doubtful whether business travellers — the likely target market of a high speed commuter model between Durban and Johannesburg — would opt for this mode of transport over air transport.

Given the high volumes of commuter traffic between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, Coetzee noted that this route offered significant potential for the development of a high speed rail link.

The government estimates that a high speed rail solution between Durban and Johannesburg could cost about R300 billion.

Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele said recently that the department will commence this month with the development of the concept, as well as a six-month market test for the project.

Ndebele noted that the Durban-Gauteng corridor is the busiest corridor in the southern hemisphere, both in terms of value and tonnage.

Several participants of the LED forum noted the need for the N3 route to be decongested, particularly as a result of the heavy freight volumes on this route.

They questioned the effectiveness of Transnet in ensuring that rail attract significant freight volumes, noting that the state-owned entity has failed to deliver in this regard.

Coetzee stressed that a high speed rail link within KZN’s major urban corridors (Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Richards Bay and Port Shepstone) will promote economic integration in the province.

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