South Africa’s only high-speed rail network is drawing up a multibillion rand plan to expand outside Johannesburg and Pretoria.

A proposal for the venture is awaiting sign-off by the National Treasury, William Dachs, chief executive officer of the Gautrain company told Bloomberg.

Investment and loans would come from a mix of private investors and state institutions such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa, he added.

“Cities that do not plan around public transport suffer great financial and economic consequences.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed infrastructure at the heart of his plan to revive the economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, low levels of investment and corruption.

Job creation

Ramaphosa sees government spending billions on various infrastructure projects, with the aim of attracting 10 times as much private investment within four years and boost job creation.

His plans include the privatisation of some older railway systems and routes, which have struggled with years of mismanagement, vandalism and theft.

The Gautrain expansion would add a further 150 kilometres of track to the existing 80-kilometre network, connecting more remote destinations such as Soweto, which has a population of about 2 million people.

The move will also help to alleviate congestion in Gauteng, where it’s estimated at the current growth levels the average rush hour traffic speed will be 15km an hour by 2037.

Ramaphosa believes government’s infrastructure initiatives — including the Gautrain expansion — would help ease South Africa’s chronic unemployment problem.

The number of people with jobs in South Africa fell to the lowest in nine years in the second quarter, while more than 20 million people are classed as economically inactive. South Africa also has among the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, with 58% of 15-24 year olds not in jobs, education or training.

Also on thesouthafrica.com: Gautrain network expansion to reach Roodepoort and Boksburg

The Gautrain was built as part of South Africa’s preparations to host the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Dachs added that every rand the government has invested in the group has made a return of at least double.

The rail company’s name is derived from the Gauteng province and translates as the ‘golden train,’ a reference to Johannesburg’s 19th century origins as a gold-mining town.

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Presh JM Reporter

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