The transport industry is closely monitoring the progress of the proposed high-speed railway project between Johannesburg and Durban. Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has confirmed that the much awaited project is ready to be presented for Cabinet approval. Once given the green light, a feasibility study on the viability of the rail link will follow.

The first proposal for high-speed rails in South Africa was conceptualised in 2005, with the Department of Transport throwing their weight behind the revitalisation of the country’s rail industry to unlock economic development and job creation. The department also sees rail as a key to their plans of moving South Africa’s current emphasis on road transport to rail. In September last year, his plan was again included in the National Transport Master Plan (Natmap) 2010 – 2050.

There have been concerns about the cost and engineering difficulties of the project, with costs expected to exceed R750 billion, but government has indicated they will be looking into possible alternative funding sources.

After announcing the project’s government presentation, Minister Ndebele added that the Department of Transport will probably call for expressions of interest on the Durban-Johannesburg high-speed rail route in July 2011. The minister stressed the fact that all construction tenders procedures for this project will follow a strict, inclusive and transparent evaluation process.