PROPOSALS to develop a fast rail network linking Pretoria, Johannesburg, Johannesburg International Airport and Sandton are set to move forward, with a conference to be held in May for potential suppliers and private-sector investors in the proposed public-private partnership. The aim is to close a BOT deal during 2002, with the first trains running in 2006.

According to the Gauteng provincial government, the area between Pretoria and Johannesburg is one of the fastest growing regions in South Africa, and additional transport capacity is urgently required. The Gauteng SDI Rail Link was designated as one of ten Spatial Development Initiatives by Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa last year. Consultants were appointed in April 2000 to assist the Gauteng transport department with developing the project. Feasibility studies conducted by Khuthele Projects, Argus-Gibb and Lebone Engineering suggested that the network could be viable, with patronage estimated at more than 70000 passengers/day (RG 8.00 p465).

One line would run from Pretoria to Johannesburg via Centurion, Midrand and Sandton, with a branch from Sandton to Johannesburg Airport. Between the junction and Johannesburg Park, the favoured route would require an 8 km bored rock tunnel. Costed at around R4bn, the 80 km network is likely to be standard gauge with 25 kV electrification. Trains would operate at up to 200 km/h, cutting the journey time between the two cities to 38min.