Plans for a R1,4-billion rail link between Cape Town International Airport and the centre of the city have been unveiled by the South African Rail Commuter Corporation.

The corporation has completed a feasibility study and is now looking for a partner in the private sector.

Hishaam Emeran, senior manager of strategic network planning for the corporation, said: “A project of this nature lends itself to private sector involvement and we are exploring this option.”

The rail link is unlikely to be built before the first phase of the high-speed Gautrain in Gauteng, which will link South Africa’s busiest airport, OR Tambo International, to Sandton around 2011.

The state-owned Commuter Corporation operates the passenger company, Metrorail.

Emeran said they had already worked out the route of the Cape Town rail link. A total of 4km would be elevated, and the line extension would link to the existing Bellville-Sarepta railway line near Lavistown station. The preferred rail route lies mainly between Modderdam and Borcherd’s Quarry roads before entering the airport precinct.

A station would have to be built at the airport, and a second might be built along Modderdam Road.

The train might also stop at Mutual station in Pinelands, which would facilitate the transfer to and from other key rail corridors in the region.

Emeran said the planning was fully integrated with the Airports Company South Africa’s master plan.

The upgrade of Cape Town station would also include facilities for the airport service.

Officials from the city and the province took part in the technical feasibility study, and they are still liaising.

Some of the benefits include improved access to the airport, reduced road congestion, less parking congestion at the airport, lower vehicle emissions and pollution, and increased development potential at the airport and surrounds.

The feasibility study showed the airport was the second busiest in South Africa with passenger numbers of more than eight million a year.

The passenger-growth rate had exceeded the economic growth rate continually and for the past five years averaged almost 10 percent a year.

The main reasons for this high growth were considered to be economic growth, the attractiveness of Cape Town as a tourist destination and the introduction of low-cost airlines.

Activities in connection with the 2010 soccer World Cup, and the event itself, would contribute to sustained high growth of air travel from and to Cape Town in the short to medium term.

The report said the challenge was to upgrade the rail facilities and to provide services to meet the requirements of both air travellers and commuters.