THE SOUTH African government is expected to give the go ahead next week to a 7bn Rand (£500M) build operate and transfer scheme to construct a fast rail link between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Virgin, Halcrow, Bombardier, Alstom, Skoda and Ansaldo are among the European companies working with South African contractors to set up concession groups to put in prequalification bids to the client, the province of Gauteng.
Four concession groups for the Gautrain project will be selected within eight weeks and asked to put in detailed proposals. 'Given the high cost of proposals we wanted to give the shortlist a reasonable chance of success, ' said the Gauteng government's head of transport and public works department Jack van der Merwe. A preferred bidder will be selected by the end of next year, he said. Construction start is planned for 2003 with the railway due to open in 2006.
The 80km rail route will cut to 34 minutes the current 78 minute journey time between two of South Africa's most important cities. The route is intended to relieve congestion on the province's major N1 motorway and boost economic regeneration schemes along the route.
A key part of the scheme will be a 15 minute link from Johannesburg to the international airport.
INFOPLUS www. gautrain. co. za