Rapid-rail link: You won’t foot bill alone

2010-09-02 07:21

Taxpayers may not have to foot the bill for the multi-billion rand rapid-rail link between Johannesburg and Durban, which forms part of government’s rail investment programme.

The high-speed train project, similar to the Gautrain, is one of three such projects. The others are to link Johannesburg and Cape Town and Johannesburg and Musina respectively.

Said George Mahlalela, the transport department’s director-general: “We are looking at innovating ways to fund the programme without necessarily having to rely on the national fiscus.”

He said government would consider getting funding from the private sector and foreign countries, and did not rule out the Chinese as one of the investors in some of the speed rail networks.

Initial reports put the cost of the Johannesburg-Durban project at R220 billion (today, Mahlalela said it was R95 billion) and concerns were raised that China would bring its labour and exclude the local construction and engineering sector.

Mahlalela allayed fears that China would contribute all the labour and money by saying that government’s memorandum of agreement with China did not include these details.

The department was, however, short on detail because it was still at the “initial work-in-progress briefing” of its rail investment programme, which would include the overhaul and modernisation of the country’s rail network and construction of “fully-integrated transit systems in 12 urban centres” over the next 20 years.

Mahlalela said the department wanted to get South Africans talking about the programme. “We are presenting these issues to spark a national debate,” he said.

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