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SA World Cup rail project delayed

Soccer stadium in Cape Town
South Africa is hoping the World Cup will bring huge economic benefits

One of South Africa's major projects for next year's World Cup will not be ready, the BBC has been told.

A spokeswoman for Gautrain - a high-speed rail link - told the BBC that the line would not be operational until at least two weeks into the tournament.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Johannesburg says the news is a blow to South Africa's hopes of a successful event.

In another development, a World Cup organiser has hit out at spiralling accommodation prices for the event.

Organising committee boss Danny Jordaan said inflated prices could damage South Africa's prospects of enticing tourists back after the tournament.

Contractors pressured

Organisers of South Africa 2010 had hoped fans would arrive at Johannesburg airport and board a high-speed train to the commercial centre.

Instead, most football fans' first experience will now be a taxi or a shuttle bus and more than likely a sizable traffic jam, our correspondent says.

It is not to look at the World Cup as a once-off, but to see tourism over a period of time creating a stable and predictable basis
Organising committee boss Danny Jordaan

For the past three years builders have been working on the Gautrain - an ambitious $3.5bn (£2bn) project linking Johannesburg, Pretoria and the airport.

Contractors, under pressure to complete before next June's deadline, demanded an additional $180m (£107m) to accelerate their work and hit the target.

But the South African government refused, saying it was too much money for just a few weeks' gain.

In their assessment of South Africa's preparedness - football's governing body Fifa has already identified lack of transport infrastructure and a shortage of accommodation as likely problems.

Hotel price hike

Meanwhile, Mr Jordaan told Reuters news agency he was concerned to hear that some owners of hotels and private homes have inflated prices by up to six times during the past few months.

"It is one of the things we asked the tourism authorities to look at," he said during a visit to London.

"It is not to look at the World Cup as a once-off, but to see tourism over a period of time creating a stable and predictable basis. Otherwise you will get a huge influx of tourists into the country and they don't return. Unfortunately this is one of the things that has emerged around major events."

In Johannesburg, World Cup Local Organising Committee spokesman Rick Mkhondo told the BBC they were appealing to those providing accommodation to be "as reasonable as possible".

"We are in constant discussions with government and other partners in ensuring that we have accommodation at reasonable prices," he added.



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