Developing a high-speed rail system would not be a priority for South Africa over the next three to five years, said Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) group CEO Lucky Montana on Wednesday. However, over the next 10 to 20 years the country would have to develop a second, high-speed rail network, adding to the existing, slower intercity Metrorail commuter network.
The Metrorail network was currently the subject of a multibillion-rand rolling stock and infrastructure upgrade programme.
Speaking at Africa Rail 2012, held in Johannesburg, Montana noted that Prasa would stick to the narrow Cape gauge network in renewing its existing passenger rail fleet to the tune of some R123-billion.
“There is no point in running the commuter network at 160 km/h. The stations are too close together.”
Any new network being developed, however, would be standard gauge, and would be able to accommodate high-speed trains travelling at around 220 km/h, said Montana.
“We can have the two networks exist next to each other,” he insisted.
Montana then also confirmed Prasa’s commitment to some long-standing high-speed rail projects, such as the development of the Moloto rail corridor.
Several reviews of this project had indicated that standard-gauge technology would save costs compared with Cape gauge technology.
Montana noted that this 120 km standard-gauge project would enable 45 000 passenger trips during peak periods.
“There has been a lot of debate about whether this is a priority. From where government stands this is a key requirement of our time.”
Montana said the development was about more than building a rail link, with stimulating economic development in the area also a key motivation.
He added that Prasa had not given up on building airport links in Durban and Cape Town either.
“These are part of our projects. We are looking at them in our planning.”