STRONG interest was shown in plans to develop a high speed railway in South Africa’s Gauteng province (RG 3.01 p146) at the delayed investor conference held in Johannesburg on September 7-8. Among companies present were Bombardier, Skoda, Alstom, Siemens, RATP of Paris, and Nisho Iwai, representing Mitsubishi and Hitachi; Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa had visited Europe during August to discuss the project with Siemens and Alstom.

The latest proposals envisage an 80 km route linking Pretoria, Johannesburg and that city’s airport, with an 11 km underground section in central Johannesburg; 5 km would run on elevated alignment. The line would be electrified at 3 kV DC, like the local suburban routes, but a decision by project planning chief Jack van der Merwe would see it built to 1435mm gauge, making it incompatible with the rest of South Africa’s 1067mm gauge network. Cab signalling would be fitted, with automatic train stops.

Four-car multiple-units would run at 10min frequencies, with speeds up to 180 km/h. The cost is expected to be R7bn, with the province contributing R1bn. A BOT contract is preferred, with the government providing a ridership guarantee to the private sector if the expected 60000 passengers a day fail to materialise. The promoters are hoping construction will start in 2003, with the first trains running in 2006.