A high-speed rail link would ease congestion on the road, as such a means of transportation was proven to be the most efficient mass mover of individuals.
However, Ndebele added that a lot planning was still needed, and significant finance would be required to undertake such a project
So, what should it be? Passenger rail as suggested by S'bu (Sbusiso) or freight rail? Or should it be both passenger and freight as suggested by Lucky Montana? I believe that a country needs to choose whether they want to invest heavily in passenger trains or freight - you can not be best at both. For instance, the USA has one of the best freight rail services whereas European countries have the best passenger rail systems - neither of them have the best of both.
So Mr. Lucky Montana's idea can not be supported at all...which leaves us to passenger rail or freight rail. As already mentioned, the USA is the leader in freight rail services but this does not mean that they do not have passenger rail. In fact, they have local trains which serves their cities (though plans are there to invest in long distance trains) supported by other modes of passenger transport. So for SA a choice need to be made whether we want to invest heavily on long distance rail system of local rail system (as we already done with the Gautrain) as we can not do both and I am afraid we can't build a long distance rail system.
Why you ask? Well our cities are too far away from each other with local transport still in shambles. Besides, we already have an efficient (but with a lot of room to improve) air transport that operates between major cities. The best thing to do is to keep on improving the air industry in South Africa so that small cities can also be served by private ear lines. Another reason why we should not go for long distance trains is because we already have them, though they are slow. Like we messed up with the Gautrain, we should not solve the problem by building another high speed rail between Durban and Jo'burg or any where but fix the current situation. We can do what in Australia call Tilting, a rail technology that increases rail speed. In Australia the service between Brisbane and Cairns by the QR Tilt Train claims to be the fastest narrow-gauge train in the world, running at 160 km/h - a distance of more than 1000 kilometers between the two areas. At this speed, its speed can be compared to that of the Gautrain's and its technology can be used in urban areas, with massive savings to be incurred.
So passenger rail out and this leaves us with freight rail. If you have to believe The Road Freight Federation (SARF) that it make more sense to build a dedicated truck route then perhaps we should have a feasibility study for that as well. But I doubt the politicians will give this a thought, especially with some experts saying we should encourage more businesses to move to the coast though I believe this will not materialize. Why? Manufacturing companies in Johannesburg are near to other African countries and as soon as growth in South Africa starts to deteriorate companies are going to look for opportunities in Africa (in fact, some companies are doing that already - PnP, Shoprite and Massmart).
But then do you really need freight to move at the speed of 300 km/h? No, remember that its not about speed but reliability - yes, you can have a good speed freight train but only arrives 3 hours late. So why not increase the reliability of the current freight line? We can do this by introducing competition between Transnet and other rail private companies? I think this is the way to go. Also if tilting is possible on freight rail, we can still get goods to customers on a more acceptable times.
Which ever way the politicians and experts end up opting for, we should bare in mind that SA still have a lot of local passenger transport issues to take solve and we can not be thinking of high speed rails that will require massive government subsidies.