S.Africa to spend $14 billion on new trains

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South Africa will invest 97 billion rands ($14 billion, 10 billion euros) in new trains over 18 years to improve the country's rail system, the transport minister said Tuesday.

"The acquisition of 97 billion rands new stock for Metrorail and long-distance rail services will serve as the catalyst for the implementation of a major rail investment plan," Sibusiso Ndebele told an industry meeting.

Private investors will be required to finance the ambitious plan, expected to create 15,000 direct jobs, Ndebele said.

"Let us be clear, the coffers of the state are not sufficient to fund such a large programme. Therefore, a significant and sustained commitment from local and international financiers will be required to complete the rolling stock renewal programme," he said.

He said the current fleet of local Metrorail as well as inter-city trains had reached the end of its designed life.

"The system is no longer able to meet effectively passenger and economic demands, and reached a stage where its must be replaced."

More than two million South Africans, mostly low-income earners, commute on Metrorail trains every day.

The rail agency spent 25 billion rands ahead of the football World Cup held last year to upgrade the Metrorail network, including new stations.

South Africa last year also launched the first leg of the Gautrain, Africa's first high-speed rail, with an airport link in Johannesburg. The three-billion-dollar project is expected to add a link to the capital Pretoria later this year.

© 2011 AFP

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