A R12-billion monorail will be built between Johannesburg and Soweto in the next two years, it was announced on Wednesday.

"By 2009 no one from Soweto should have to wait more than 15 minutes for transport," Gauteng Finance and Economic Affairs MEC Paul Mashatile said at the launch of the project in Sandton.

Work on the 44.7km monorail and its 39 stations will start in September.

The monorail was intended to complement and not compete against existing forms of transport, said Mashatile.

"The problem in South Africa when it comes to public transport is not competition, the problem is people queue for three to four hours (for transport).

"... We want to move people: move them efficiently; move them safely; move them in an affordable way..."

It was hoped the monorail would move 1,5 million passengers a day, between Soweto and Johannesburg, to ease congestion on the roads.

The monorail service will consist of 4.5m high, rubber-wheeled carbon fibre carriages, 10 metres long and three metres wide - able to carry 107 passengers each.

These will run on concrete beams atop six-metre tall pillars situated mainly on the centre medians between road carriageways, and will dock at aerial stations accessed via escalators.

The hybrid variety used in South Africa will run on a combination of electricity and solar-powered batteries.

The monorail is expected to cost R174-million a kilometre to build, but none of this will be borne by the government.

The project is a private sector initiative by the Malaysian investment consortium, Newcyc Vision, with which Mashatile, Gauteng Public Transport Road and Works MEC Ignatius Jacobs and Gauteng Economic Development Agency chief executive officer Keith Khoza signed a deal on Wednesday.

Newcyc has been given three months to find Black Economic Empowerment partners.

Newcyc chief executive officer Jeyakumar Varathan has invited both small local development companies and big civil construction companies to present the consortium with their profiles.

He said that while raw materials were being sourced outside South Africa because of present local shortages, construction would take place in the country at a factory in Mogale City, next to the Merafong Hospital.

Built on 20 hectares of land provided by the Gauteng government, the factory would be the hub of monorail developments throughout Africa.

Jacobs said he first proposed that the idea of a monorail for Gauteng be explored in his 2002 strategic agenda for transport.

However, year-long work on a feasibility study for the project had been kept largely secret until now to prevent any escalation in the prices of, among other things, land, said Mashatile.

The monorail was not expected to result in expropriations similar to those caused by construction of the Gautrain, and only minimal disruption was expected "because we're going up. This is a skybridge," said Jacobs.

"... We are convinced we are entering a new era of modernising public transport to our province. It's a revolution," he said.

Instead of being run by computerised high technology, the South African service would be labour intensive - in the interests of creating jobs and reducing poverty, he said.

The project was expected to create 100 permanent jobs a kilometre.

It would create 5 000 jobs during construction with another 2 400 at the factory.

While round-trip tickets were expected to cost R10 each, rides between stations would cost less, to encourage inner-city travelling in Soweto - between shopping centres, stadia and major heritage sites.

The entire route would take 45 minutes to cover at an average speed of 40km an hour, with a peak speed of 80km/h. Trains would run every 10 to 15 minutes and every three minutes during peaks. - Sapa