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S.Africa Rail Project to Miss World Cup

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg's new rail network, to link the airport to the city and eventually the capital Pretoria, will not be ready in time for the World Cup kick off next year, officials said on Tuesday.

The 26 billion rand (3.5 billion dollar, 2.3 billion euro) Gautrain project in South Africa's biggest city was approved years before the country was named as the World Cup host.

Officials had indicated that they could try to accelerate construction to finish before the games, which run June 11 to July 11.

"Acceleration and scope of service availability for 2010 is a complex issue and there is more that must be considered than just direct financial implications," said Jerome Govender, chief executive of the Bombela Consortium building the project.

"One is the importance of passenger and system safety," Govender said in a statement.

Bombela had offered to speed up construction for an additional 1.3 billion rand, which the government was unwilling to pay.

Gautrain is now set for completion in October 2010, the statement said.

Deputy transport minister Jeremy Cronin said in local media that it would be unwise to pay so much to gain a couple of weeks at a time when government's coffers are under pressure due to a recession.

He also accused the company of dragging its feet, saying Bombela could have completed the Gautrain by late June.

"It's a pity that they (Bombela) will not use the World Cup soccer tournament to show off the project; money means more to them than such considerations," he said on the Finance24 website.


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