FOR many years it has appeared to us that The Herald won’t report on the rail corridor between George and Knysna without raising its readers hopes of the imminent return of the steam train. Why not keep your readers better informed about the situation and the options?
The report, “New hope for iconic Garden Route rail line” (November 12), taken from the recent Garden Route Cycleway Association (GRCA) newsletter, is a case in point. Can you say if the maximum passenger count was in fact 150 000 per annum – or was that the estimated future passenger count based on ticket sales of 115 000 in 2006?
Can you say how many of those patrons were steam enthusiasts and how many were ordinary commuters? If the Choo-Tjoe generated “about R10-million per annum”, can you explain why it required a subsidy of R10-million per annum, despite not being responsible for the line, its upkeep or the general administration of the line?
Do you know that Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has upped its estimate of the repair of the line to R250-million?
“Stegmann said previous studies had found the revival of the rail service to be uneconomical” – don’t give me the credit for that, quote the studies carried out by specialist consultants commissioned to investigate the possibility of reviving the steam service.
If you have documentation to support MEC Alan Winde’s contention that the iconic service will form a major drawcard in the Southern Cape’s tourism offering, please compare the information to that supplied in GRCA’s business plan for your readers to judge. Is the cycleway proposal only intended to cater for a “sport tourism niche”?
What is your policy on nonmotorised transportation, the environment, public health, and job creation and wellbeing? Are your readers aware that because cyclists of every possible kind are given one day each year when they can ride on those beautiful scenic roads free of motor traffic, that it brings R500-million into the Peninsula? (Very much more than any steam could generate in a year.)
Do your readers know that the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour was founded to get bicycle paths built in the Cape Peninsula? It is a need that existed 35 years ago, and is much more in need today and in future.
Why, do you think, cyclists have had to escape the city and take to the hills to enjoy cycling? If the desire is so great and bicycle ownership is so high, why don’t people in cities use their bicycles for transportation?
In short, do your readers realise how valuable that rail corridor could be to the region as a cycleway and how much is lost every day that the decision is deferred?
Are they really content to let the years drift by in the belief that “the authorities” will do anything about it without being pressurised to act?
And is it that your readers believe that whatever the authorities decide to do it will make very little difference to them personally?
If we are discussing questions such as these, can you tell us why we should not conclude that your paper has taken a policy decision to favour the return of the Choo-Tjoe, and wonder why?
Cape Town has now made a determined start with the provision of facilities to encourage bicycle usage. Knysna has done a little. Johannesburg has big plans and will start next year. Other cities around the world are way ahead.
The message is: make the most of opportunities that are here now. If not, apart from the lost potential use, it will be far more difficult and expensive in years to come.
John Stegmann, GRCA, Plettenberg Bay
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