Johannesburg - The Gautrain - Africa's first high-speed rail line - will launch on June 8 2010, three days before the opening match of the 2010 World Cup, the developers said on Friday.
French construction giant Bouygues said the train's first segment, linking OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton, will open in time for the June 11 kick-off of Africa's first World Cup.
"(The segment) will be handed over on June 8, three weeks ahead of our original schedule," said Christian Gazaignes, Bouygues' executive director.
When finished in mid-2011, the 80km regional express train will link Pretoria with Johannesburg.
An international consortium that includes Bouygues, Canadian firm Bombardier and two local companies began construction on the 160km/h-maximum rail line in 2006.
The developers have worked "doubly hard" to finish the first section before the World Cup, said Charles-Etienne Perrier, project director for Bouygues.
For R100, World Cup visitors will be able to ride the 15km trip from the airport to the Sandton hotel district in less than 15 minutes.
"It's going to give the country a beautiful image of modernity," said Laurence Leblanc, international director of RATP Dev, a subsidiary of French group RATP, the company awarded a 15-year concession to operate the train.
Transportation officials plan for the R25m Gautrain to form the backbone of a new public transport network that will take traffic off the notoriously congested Johannesburg-Pretoria highway.