2 September 2010
The Department of Transport says it is working on a multi-billion rand rail investment programme to upgrade and modernise South Africa’s aging rail network.
The department’s director-general, George Mahlalela, said the investment will include beefing up operations in the passenger rail sector, with potential high-speed rail projects identified in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Musina in Limpopo province.
Mahlalela said most of the country’s commuter rail system was nearing the end of its life-span. “We believe that an ambitious programme of introducing new rail stock and technology in our system is an absolute necessity,” he said.
Sustainable investment environment
Over R40-billion has been invested in the past five years in passenger rail infrastructure across the country. Mahlalela said this included the R25-billion invested on the Gautrain and almost R13-billion on the rehabilitation of passenger coaches and signalling systems.
The department says the investment programme, which is expected to run for the next 20 years, will create “certainty” and allow manufacturers to retool their businesses, leading to sustainable local industrial activities.
“It is generally agreed that new rail technology generates social benefits which stem from savings, increase in reliability, comfort and safety, as well as from the reduction of congestion and accidents … It is the most environmentally friendly mode of transport,” Mahlalela said.
Increase in people’s movement
The plan comes a week Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele and his Chinese counterpart, Liu Zhijun, signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation in the rail sector.
Mahlalela said the massive increase in people’s movement and road traffic was posing serious challenges for South Africa’s economy.
“We are seeing a massive increase in long distance travel in South Africa … This puts a major strain on our roads and air traffic, and these challenges can only be addressed through rapid rail system,” he said.
“Our view is that the rail sector should be one of the major investment areas for the transport sector and the economy of South Africa.”