From the US to the UK to China, countries around the world getting in on the high speed rail bandwagon. The latest country to announce plans for a network is South Africa, which is now looking into a high speed rail line that connects Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Right now a journey from Durban to Johannesburg can take up to 12 hours, but with a high speed rail line the trip would only take 3 hours. This vast improvement is what South African officials feel is necessary to improve economic development and modernize the country.

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South Africa has nearly finished construction on a small high speed rail line, which is set to open in May — just in time for the 2010 World Cup. The Gautrain (a combo of Gauteng province and train) will link Johannesburg to Pretoria and the international airport and have a top speed of 100 miles per hour. Testing for the rail line is ongoing and officials have high hopes for the train’s usefulness during the games this summer.

Beyond the Guatrain, South Africa’s high speed rail network is currently in the planning stages — the Department of Transport is discussing links and stops and will propose a full plan to the Cabinet later this year. Ultimately, they are hoping to connect the three of major economic centers of the country – Johannesberg, Durban and Cape Town. The Department is primarily interested in the link between Johannesburg and Durban along the N3, which is regularly clogged and has frequent accidents. “It’s the busiest route in South Africa,” Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said, “If those people were on the train it would work out.

+ Gautrain