GEORGE NEWS -The importance of the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe train for the region was discussed again at a workshop regarding the tourism value of the Montagu Pass, held at the George Museum last Thursday, 30 January.
Frustration was expressed that the Choo Tjoe, which had to be discontinued in 2006 after heavy rains caused damage to the railway line, is not yet running.
Prof Francois Hanekom, organiser of the event, stressed the importance of including the railway in the plans for the Montagu Pass, suggesting that it's time that the community demonstrate that they want the railway lines between George and Knysna to be open.
On Monday he told George Herald that it seems to him as if Transnet has other priorities. "I get the impression that they don't see the tourism value of the Choo Tjoe."
Worldwide, trains are very popular. He thinks the whole region would benefit from the railway, as other towns such as Oudtshoorn and Albertinia could also form part of the journeys. Communities could get involved by helping to clean the railway lines, for example - but action should only be taken through the right channels and after permission from the authorities.
Proposal being processed
Spokesperson for Transnet Freight Rail, Mike Asefovitz, said the organisation still wants to see the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe up and running again with the help of the private sector.
A proposal from a private company is currently being considered in the various corporate governance processes of Transnet and Government.
The proposal has passed the first level and was escalated to higher decision-making bodies. Finally, the request will be submitted to the Minister of Public Enterprises in terms of the Public Finance Management Act to approve.
"We expect the current internal Transnet Governance processes to conclude during the first half of the year, whereafter the Minister will be requested to support the Concession for the line and assets. A final decision can be expected that will be communicated during the fourth quarter of 2020," he said.
"After the announcement, the Concessionaire and Transnet will conclude all the required agreements and we expect that the construction phase can commence in 2021 with the first operations in 2022."
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