GEORGE NEWS - The neglect of Transnet assets in George does not contribute to the city's appeal to visitors and creates an annoying eye sore for residents, according to two frustrated locals. They turned to the George Herald after their complaints to Transnet came to nothing.
Heaps of trash are spoiling the entrance gate to the Outeniqua Transport Museum and Ian Merry, who works nearby, says it is disappointing that this is the first thing local and international tourists see when visiting the museum.
"We have complained on numerous occasions to the George Municipality, and Transnet, but nothing gets done. This reveals a total lack of interest in a key tourist attraction in the Garden Route," complained Merry.
On Monday 6 January, George Municipality responded to a query from the newspaper, promising to visit the site and instruct Transnet to clean their premises. Transnet's communications executive chief Mike Asefovitz said, "I agree that it is unacceptable and I have escalated the matter so that the situation is addressed. This section is leased to the South African Post Office and according to the lease agreement, they are responsible for cleaning up."
Comment is being awaited from the Post Office.
Overgrown railway line
Rheinalt von Hirschberg's gripe is the neglected railway tracks through George. He has been trying since November to get Transnet to clear the overgrown lines, but was informed that because of "major internal procurement delays", help had been requested from George Municipality.
However, no work has been done.
According to Asefovitz, Transnet Freight Rail spot-cleared around level crossings "to ensure safety" before the December holiday. "The contracts for further vegetation clearance will start later in January."
Von Hirschberg was not impressed with this comment and told the newspaper, "Since no trains have run on the lines between George and Knysna for at least 10 years and between George and Oudtshoorn for a year, what safety concerns are there? Never mind the fact that there is only one level crossing in George itself - at the top of Caledon Street.
Do they expect a pat on the back because they have made something safe? Over and above all the neglect and untidiness, why does our local municipality allow Transnet to get away with it? Why are they not proactive and force Transnet to toe the line, like they do when property of a person starts looking untidy?"
'Two main issues'
George Community Services director Walter Hendricks said the municipality has through the years engaged with Transnet in this regard, but has so far not been able to find a solution that complies with the legal matters that place constraints on both parties.
"There are two main issues: according to the Municipal Finance Management Act, the municipality is not allowed to incur costs on property that does not belong to Council. Under normal circumstances, the municipality would issue a notice to a land owner to clear property and, if the property owner does not comply, appoint a contractor to go clear the property and add the bill to the property owner's municipal account.
"However, [the second reason is that] railway reserves are governed under national legislation which includes stringent requirements for people who work there, including advanced railway-specific safety training, and in the past Transnet would not give the municipality permission to clear in the train track reserve because of the legal constraints."
Hendricks said his department has been in contact with a Transnet official who had requested assistance from the municipality, but the municipality requires permission in writing from a relevant senior Transnet official to not only clear the land but also to bill Transnet for such services, as well as relevant documentation for payment to ensure the cost will be recovered.
"The George Municipality believes the solution lies with a legal agreement between the municipality and Transnet so that the municipality can take over the responsibility of clearing the railway on a cost recovery basis, which has been proposed and discussed between parties before, but had so far not come to fruition. The municipality will initiate this discussion with Transnet again this year in the hope to come to a practical working agreement that would comply with all legislation and resolve this ongoing issue successfully and amicably."
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