SA moves to Rapid Rail

Posted on Mar 30, 2003 in Media Releases

The Gauteng Province in South Africa is currently planning to introduce a modern railway line that will link Johannesburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg International Airport. Gauteng is the powerhouse of the South African economic activity. Although Gauteng covers less than 2% of the South African surface area, it has more than 50% of the country’s rail passengers, it generates more than 36% of the country’s GDP, and – even more impressively – more than 25% of the GDP of all the countries in Southern Africa.

Gauteng Premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, in February 2000 announced this new rapid rail system as one of the ten Spatial Development Initiatives (SDIs) of government. The SDI Programme is a short-term investment strategy that aims to unlock inherent economic potential in specific areas. It uses public resources to leverage private sector investment through potential investment opportunities, and ensuring that infrastructure and other resources are in place for an investment friendly environment.

The objective is to boost investment and kick-start development in regions with a high potential for economic growth, thereby generating employment and allowing opportunities for local businesses. South Africa’s SDIs have identified nearly 800 investment opportunities worth $32,4 billion with the capacity to create 85 000 jobs.

Existing Conditions
The roads in the corridor between Pretoria and Johannesburg are highly congested during peak periods with traffic growth continuing at 7% per year. The N1-freeway carries more than 150 000 vehicles per day. In recent times, traffic congestion on this road increased to unbearable levels. New legislation promulgated in 2000 places an obligation on government to promote public transport. This project illustrates Gauteng Government’s commitment in this regard in the triangular geographic area between Johannesburg, Pretoria and JIA (sometimes referred to as the golden triangle).

Development of a New Rail System
A German pre-feasibility study on a possible rail Link came to the conclusion that additional capacity on this corridor is necessary, and that the railway project would probably be feasible.

A comprehensive feasibility study being undertaken by Khuthele Projects, Argus-Gibb and Lebone Engineering found that the approximately 80km (50 mile) railway line is technically feasible, and that the demand for such a rail service could exceed 70 000 commuters daily. The modelling indicates that no operational subsidies would be required after the initial investment. Government’s involvement will thus be focussed on the land expropriation and infrastructure investment. The technical team completed the conceptual designs, route planning, technical planning and even the feeder and distribution services required for the new system.

As part of the preparatory work, a number of issues had to be addressed. These include whether the current narrow rail gauge (1 067 mm), or the standard international gauge is preferred, the traction to be used, etc. The whole issue of the preference for tunnelling vs elevated or at surface sections had to be given special attention.

The new rail system will comprise a modern system of a high quality, with predictable service levels and travelling times. The requirement that travel time on the 57 km section between Johannesburg and Pretoria should be below 40 minutes, would require maximum speeds of 160 to 200 km/h. The stations will all be located on prime commercial land, affording the rail and other investors major opportunities.

The project will be carried out on a BOT-basis, using a private-public partnership approach. Government is fully committed to participate and to consider acceptable and appropriate risks. The indications are that the private sector will enjoy a profitable investment if willing to accept the appropriate private sector risks.

Technical planning, including demand modeling, cost analysis etc, has largely been completed to enable bidding companies to do their own checking and assessment of feasibility. The tendering process can thus soon proceed with the commencement of the pre-qualification process. At the same time government will continue with the environmental impact analysis and land expropriation, to be completed prior to the actual finalisation of the tender.

Investors conference
An Investors Conference will probably take place in May 2001, or shortly thereafter. At this event, potential investors on will be informed on the technical planning, feasibility assessment, business case and risk distribution, together with ancillary opportunities attached. The expression of interest and tendering process will also be discussed with the aim to clarify government’s willingness to accept some of the risks.

The details for this conference are being finalised. Interested persons are invited to submit their contact details on the website: http://www.gautrans.gpg.gov.za/index.htm

Issued on behalf of:
Gauteng SDI Rail Link

For further information:
Johan Venter +27 82-451-3678
johanv@khuthele.co.za

Issued by:
Barbara Jensen
eQuinox communication
Barbara@equinox-comm.co.za
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