Last year, i attempted to get information and photos from Friends of the Choo-Tjoe to use on our sister site, Love Knysna. Maybe the fact that i didn’t get a response was indicative that the steam trains supporters had seen the proverbial writing on the wall. I resorted to posting my aspiration as Dreaming of the Choo-Tjoe. Those dreams turned to dust today when i read that Transnet wasn’t interested until someone invested the R150 million needed to repair the tracks.
Dreams and reality sometimes live in separate spaces for a reason. Before the Recession, Knysna was already in desperate need of better education facilities, road repairs, drug rehabilitation programs, housing and food support. No matter how much i want the train to whistle and billow, it doesn’t supercede these urgent needs.
One day, hopefully, we’ll achieve the strength we’re capable of and work towards the Choo-Tjoe as a community.
Here is the Business Day’s report:
Despite the often sentimental clamour for the restoration of the iconic Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam train on the Garden Route, owner Transnet last week insisted someone else would have to come up with the R150m required to repair the flood-damaged rail infrastructure.
Before the floods of 2006, the Choo-Tjoe attracted up to 150 000 rail enthusiasts to the Garden Route from around the world every year, generating about R10m a year in ticket sales alone and tens of millions more in general tourist revenue.
The service was brought to an abrupt halt when the railway line was severely damaged by massive land slips, mainly in the Kaaiman s Pass region at Wilderness.
“Transnet does not have the R150m required to put the Choo-Tjoe back on track, but we will listen to anyone who is prepared to put up the money,” Transnet CEO Brian Molefe said last week.
Mr Molefe poured cold water on the hopes of Western Cape finance and tourism MEC Alan Winde, and those of the Garden Route Cycleway Association, who have expressed different hopes for the dormant railway line and hope that Transnet would sign over the property and infrastructure.
“The Choo-Tjoe rail reserve belongs to Transnet,” Mr Molefe said. “We have not considered alienating the railway land and we have no plans to do so yet.
“The only thing that could change is if someone brought R150m to the table. Then we could talk.”
Read the rest of the article at Business Day.