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Wednesday Jan 23, 2013

Japan presents plan for Joburg-Durban bullet train

Japan has emerged as a competitor to China, Germany, the US, France, and South Korea as a possible co-operation partner with South Africa on the government's planned R160 billion high speed rail link between Johannesburg and Durban.

Yoshimasa Sakon, a senior manager for Japan International Consultants for Transportation, revealed Japan's interest in being involved in the planned project in a presentation at the South Africa-Japan Railway Conference in Midrand on Monday and at a briefing in Durban yesterday.

Engineering News reported yesterday that Sakon had told the conference a number of approvals were still required to move the project forward, including the Department of Transport's authorisation to embark on a feasibility study.

The publication quoted Lanfranc Situma, a deputy directorgeneral in the department, as saying that the department was examining such a study and would present it to the cabinet once it had determined the benefits the project could hold.

Tiyani Rikhotso, a Transport Department spokesman, failed to respond to a Business Report request for comment.

Bloomberg reported that Sakon told officials from the government, the construction industry and business in Durban yesterday that funding models included partnerships between the government and private business, with a combination of yen loans and equity.

It said Sakon's pre-feasibility presentation made on behalf of the state-owned Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) indicated that the high-speed rail link would be built in two phases, with completion in 2025.

Former transport minister and current Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele first mooted the construction of the rail link at a briefing ahead of his budget vote speech in Parliament in 2010, stressing that it would encourage the transfer of road freight to rail.

The Jetro pre-feasibility study found that the high-speed rail link could potentially remove between 1.9 million tons and 3.6 million tons a year of freight volumes from South Africa's roads.

Ndebele also indicated in 2010 that a similar high speed rail link between Johannesburg and Cape Town would be explored in future.

The high-speed rail link between Johannesburg and Durban is included in the national transport master plan, which details all of South Africa's rail investment plans until 2050.

An amount of R300bn for the construction of a highspeed passenger or freight line between Durban and Johannesburg is included among the R3.2 trillion of infrastructure projects the government was considering implementing by 2020. But documents released by the Treasury during last year's Budget indicated that this project was still in the "concept" phase.

The document also stressed that all public sector infrastructure projects would be subject to rigorous assessment to determine their feasibility, adding that not all of the R3.2 trillion infrastructure projects under consideration would be approved for implementation.

"The government will choose the most cost-effective projects that provide optimal long-term benefits," it said.

Bloomberg reported that Ruth Bhengu, the chairwoman of the portfolio committee on transport, said after Sakon's presentation that South Africa wanted to increase the proportion of goods and passengers transported by rail to 80 percent by 2025.

She said the committee had visited France, Germany, China and Japan to assess their transport systems, adding that one of the conditions of foreign investment in the project would be the creation of local manufacturing hubs to supply the rolling stock and rail components.

Sakon said the trains would be able to transport 48 shipping containers at 160 km/h and 600 passengers at 300 km/h. He said passengers would travel during the day and freight would be transported at night.

Business Report

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