By Shaanaaz de Jager
THERE is hope that Nelson Mandela’s iconic Apple Express steam train could be back on track as soon as November 2012.
Nerina Skuy, Eastern Cape Narrow Gauge Rail Development Initiative (ECNGRDI) spokeswoman and chairwoman of the Heritage Railway Association of Southern Africa (HRASA), revealed this week that ambitious plans were under way for the train to resume operations on its traditional Humewood to Thornhill route.
The train stopped operating in 2010 because of dire financial constraints.
Skuy said day trips would re-launch once the repainting of the heritage coaches was completed, but the operation was “seeking funding for the painting project and preparation to get the steam train operating, as well as volunteers to undertake crew, admin and support duties”.
The initiative is being driven by the ECNGRDI which is comprised of representatives from Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa), Department of Transport, the HRASA, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) and TFR Real Estate, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality economic development, tourism and agriculture business unit, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, Cape Route 62 Tourism, Coega Development Corporation and local and regional business.
The ECNGRDI also has it in mind to grow the train’s tourism potential by including special events outings for heritage enthusiasts, for example. In addition, it plans to reintroduce the Great Train Race next year.
Prasa has been mandated to operate all Apple Express passenger public rail commuter services in South Africa.
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday August 18, 2012.