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$1.7 Billion Monorail to Link Soweto & Johannesburg

In South Africa, construction of a $1.7-billion monorail connecting Soweto and Johannesburg is scheduled to begin in September. The monorail is expected to spur economic development and help transport visitors during the 2010 World Cup.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the significance of the monorail project.

“I think there are several interesting aspects to it. First of all, it’s the first time South Africa has this type of transportation system. It’s the first time that private investors are investing in such a large-scale transport infrastructure. Usually that has been sort of within the purview of the government in this country… it’s important because transport in this country is in somewhat dire straights particularly around Johannesburg and Pretoria just because of years of neglect prior to 1994 (year of the 1st multi-racial democratic elections). No real consideration was given to modernizing and improving transport, particularly from the areas like Soweto, which are largely black residential areas. And so those areas have really fallen by the wayside,” she says.

It’s not known yet what the fares would be for the monorail, which would stretch some 44 kilometers. The monorail would link up with other transport systems in Johannesburg.

Robertson says currently many Soweto residents must get up very early and travel for several hours to reach Johannesburg, due to the congested highways or the difficulty in finding public transportation. As for the train currently operating, Robertson says commuters are often the victims of crime.

The monorail is also expected to aid in shuttling commuters and tourists during the World Cup. “All transport improvements prior to 2010 are to be welcomed just because of the prior state of public transport in this country…but even more than 2010, it’s really important for the people of Soweto to have improved mass transport systems…but (it) will also improve the ability to move around and participate as fans come 2010. And will allow visitors…to visit Soweto more easily,” she says. (English to Africa 5/17)