Developing a high-speed rail system will not be a priority for South Africa over the next three to five years, says Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) group CEO Lucky Montana.
However, over the next 10 to 20 years, the country will have to develop a second high-speed rail network, adding to the existing, slower intercity Metrorail commuter network.
The Metrorail network is currently the subject of a multibillion-rand rolling stock and infrastructure upgrade programme.
Montana notes that Prasa will stick to the narrow Cape gauge network in the renewal of its existing passenger rail fleet at a cost of some R123-billion.
“There is no point in running the com-muter network at 160 km/h. The stations are too close together.”
Any new network being developed, how- ever, will be standard gauge, and will be able to accommodate high-speed trains travelling at around 220 km/h, says Montana.
“We can have the two networks existing next to each other,” he insists.
Montana also confirms 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 have indicated that standard-gauge technology will save costs, compared with Cape gauge technology.
Montana notes that this 120 km standard-gauge project will 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 says the development is about more than just building a rail link – stimulating economic development in the area is also a key motivation.
He adds that Prasa has 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.”