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I bumped into Fraser Howell, head of the Friends of the Choo-Tjoe, and got to satisfy my curiosity about the marvellous train trolley in the parking lot at the Knysna Waterfront. We had a long chat wherein i, admittedly, played devil’s advocate on the virtues and non-virtues of saving the Choo-Tjoe. I admired Fraser’s passion and consequently asked him to send me a blog. He was kind enough to do so:
We loaded the trolley in the Knysna Industrial Area at 13h50 on Thursday 09 August 2012. Offloading was complete on the same day by 14h35! Gavin Cooper from Knysna Motor Strippers was very slick (as usual) with the moving operation.
Our inspection trolley was obtained from Sandstone Estates in the Eastern Free State in February 2011 and has been financed solely by members and supporters. It is intended that the trolley acts as a focal point in our efforts to promote and support anyone who shares our belief that the George to Knysna railway, a beautiful icon of railway heritage, be reopened.
The trolley will stay at the Knysna Waterfront for the foreseeable future.
The next stage is really to try and get the general public behind us in a practical way. We are considering making an appeal for funds to do an independent engineering survey of the line’s storm damage.
An application for funds to carry out the survey has been made to the Provincial Government of Western Cape.
The need for an independent engineering survey is because of the huge discrepancy between the massive Transnet figure for repair compared to other opinions of cost.
If the survey comes up with an acceptable repair cost figure an undertaking from Transnet that they would enter meaningful discussions on a way to move the assets to an entity, to protect them, would be needed in order to develop an environment that would attract investment to reopen the line. Transnet have indicated in the past that they are not interested in repairing the line nor reinstating the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe. To date all that Transnet has offered us is “…to talk when we [the Friends] can demonstrate how we propose to raise R250m….” Transnet have not stated what this amount is for; is it to buy the line or to repair it? They know that we, as a small association, will not be able to attract that sort of investment value especially if the asset is not ‘ring-fenced’.
We believe it will be a huge loss to South Africa, the Garden Route, rail heritage and tourism with the accompanied advantages if Transnet just allows the line to whither and die.