Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma and Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele’s state visit to China last week has come with what could be the ticket to the future of transport in this country.
They have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chinese government on possible cooperation, as South Africa seeks to be part of the “rail renaissance” that is currently taking place globally.
“The MoU is a pronouncement by the Chinese government that they would like to participate as one of the global strategic partners in our rail renaissance,” said Transport Director General George Mahlalela, addressing the media on the department’s rail plans.
The department has identified three high-speed rail projects with lines running from Johannesburg to Durban, Johannesburg to Cape Town and Johannesburg to Musina.
Mahlalela added that this investment is not exclusive to the Chinese, as there are similar engagements with other countries.
The cooperation could be through foreign investment, technology transfers, funding and skills development.
The costs of the projects have not yet been finalised.
“We are looking at alternative ways of funding without running to the National Treasury. We believe we’ll find innovative ways,” he said.
Details of the 20-year programme have not yet been determined by the department.
Mahlalela believes the revamp of the transport system will be a major boost to the country's socio-economic development.
“The challenge we are facing is that most of our commuter rail system has reached the end of its lifespan,” he said.
The department is planning to have a fully integrated transit system in 12 urban centres and six rural districts by 2020.
Even though the details of the plan are not yet clear, Mahlalela confirmed that the Moloto long distance commuter rail project is a priority, and that a feasibility study has been finished.
Mahlalela said they are preparing to submit to the cabinet action plans for these projects in September.
Over R40bn has been invested in passenger rail infrastructure and services over the last five years.