afrol News, 18 May - A euro 1.3 billion infrastructure project is to revolutionise travel in South Africa's most densely populated region before the 2010 World Cup. The "flying" monorail line between Johannesburg and Soweto is also expected to boost economic development in South Africa's Gauteng province.
Works on Africa's most ambitious public transport scheme is to start already in September this year, Gauteng authorities announced this week. Within two years, the 44.7 kilometres monorail and its 39 stations are to be inaugurated.
According to Gauteng officials, this project will be one of the biggest investments in the province. The integrated Monorail project corridor is estimated to be cost rand 12 billion (euro 1.3 billion).
"It will see the construction of a Hybrid Monorail carrier transporting over 1,5 million commuters from Soweto to the Johannesburg City Centre daily and the further construction of related infrastructure development such as the Monorail factory in Gauteng, shopping malls and residential areas," according to the Gauteng Economic Development Agency (GEDA).
Gauteng authorities will not have to pay one rand for the giant infrastructure scheme as full private sector investments have been secured. The Malaysian consortium Newcyc Vision on Wednesday signed the rand 12 billion investment deal.
Ignatius Jacobs, Gauteng's provincial minister of transport and public works, said the government had consulted with various taxi and bus operators around Soweto, promising nobody would be driven out of their market. "The monorail will be linked with the various taxi ranks and bus stations around Soweto and Johannesburg," Mr Jacobs stated.
"For the first time in this province the commuter will have a vast choice of the mode of public transport they want to use," he added. For urban dwellers and tourists, the monorail is set to cut waiting and transport times dramatically. Also travelling costs could be reduced. "The average ticket price from Protea in Soweto to Johannesburg could be as little as rand 10 per trip," Mr Jacobs indicated.
While the investors are foreign, much of the benefit will be local. "Around 100 people per kilometre of the construction will be employed as well. This means around 5,000 jobs will be created. This is a proudly South African product as all the manufacturing products will be manufactured in the province", noted Jeyakumar Varathan from the Newcyc Consortium.
South Africa is pouring vast resources in improvements of its infrastructure ahead of the 2010 World Cup that are thought to have long-lasting positive effects on development. The Gauteng monorail is among the greatest projects kicked off following the announcement of South Africa's hosting of the giant football (soccer) event.
There had however been talks about a new, speedy commuter train for the region for a long time. But the need of expropriations in the densely populated region complicated these plans. The monorail, which "flies" above the ground, is according to Mr Jacobs to solve this problem, and no expropriations are expected.
Until now, infrastructure has been at a quite good level in South Africa, compared to the rest of the continent. But in the central Gauteng region - which includes Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria - public transports lately have decayed and become insecure due to a rise massive in crime. Taxi transports thus have become the norm for the middle class and tourists.
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