China is said to be in active negotiations with South African officials about building a high-speed rail line that would connect two of the country’s economic centres, Johannesburg and Durban. The train project has reportedly been in the works for almost a decade but has only lately come to life.
Speaking at the JobFairSA 2022 event, Chen Xiaodong, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa explained that that China collaborates with South Africa on significant projects such as the high-speed railway connecting Johannesburg and Durban. The ambassador further explained that China is willing to collaborate with South Africa to advance China-South Africa relations deeper and broader adding that 100 Chinese firms want to provide 20,000 new jobs to the economy over the next three years.
Why the Johannesburg to Durban high-speed rail has been on the pipeline for so long
The main impediment to building the proposed rail line, which would represent South Africa’s greatest single expenditure in a single transportation project, is money. Since 2010 when then-Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele announced that plans for the project were being finalized, and despite multiple Chinese corporations offering to give the project money, nothing tangible ever came of it.
Currently, the project appears to be more of a pipe dream than a serious investment opportunity. Only those in the political space show enthusiasm, and non-politically aligned organizations, such as the US credit rating agency FitchSolutions, published a “negative outlook” on rail infrastructure construction in South Africa.
FitchSolutions believes that the project will never be completed due to its enormously high costs, the project wasting away in the pipeline for more than a decade, the government’s limited fiscal capacity for funding such a project, and the likely limited private sector interest in funding such a massive ordeal.