Africa's first high-speed train gets off drawing board.

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Gauteng Province in South Africa is planning a $500m high-speed rail project. Construction of the 80km of track will begin in 2003 which will link Pretoria, Johannesburg and Johannesburg International Airport. It is planned to be operational by 2006.

Known locally, informally, as the Shilowa Express after Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, it's the first time that a high-speed rail link has been proposed for Africa - and flies in the face of conventional development funding philosophy which holds that rail has a no role in the modern era, particularly in Africa.

Employment is expected to reach 43,000 during the construction stage, with about the same number of new 'indirect' jobs also being created. As soon as the four route, ten station network is completed it will provide at least 12,000 permanent jobs. It will greatly improve the plight of urban commuters and air-travellers alike, reducing road traffic congestion and pollution.

The express trains are expected to carry passengers at speeds of up to l6Okph - with journey times between Pretoria and Johannesburg, some 57km apart, taking just 35 minutes; JIA to Sandton just 15 minutes.

Studies have indicated that as many as 64,000 passengers a day can be expected to use the new rail network which will operate 18 hours a day. That figure is projected to grow at some 5% annually leading to passenger levels reaching 100,000 a day by 2016.

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