Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News

RN 291 - Famous line to Langkloof may be refurbished by Nwabisa Nofemele - The Herald

29th November 2006

THE EASTERN Cape roads and transport department is planning to refurbish the old freight railway line between the Langkloof and Port Elizabeth – and give new life to the line that gave the Apple Express its name.
The revival of the old line used for carrying apples from Langkloof farms to the port for export is expected to create jobs and spare the province‘s truck-ravaged roads.
The department also plans to refurbish the branch line between the Port Elizabeth station and Motherwell for commuter purposes by 2010.

Roads and Transport MEC Thobile Mhlahlo yesterday hosted three Dutch consultants who are to assist the department in a feasibility study on the use of the lines to attract private investors and operators.
While Spoornet will continue to operate the main railway lines, transport department rail chief director Nkululeko Poya said private operators were required to run some branch lines in the province.
Mhlahlo said the department was investigating the possibility of using all railway lines between East London and Port Elizabeth as an alternative mode of transport for both commuter and freight purposes.
According to Mhlahlo, refurbishing all the roads in the province would cost millions the department cannot afford at the moment. “Farmers want a quick, reliable mode of transport to take their goods to the harbour and we want to have our railways operating for them,” Mhlahlo said.

Poya said: “We are doing research to see how we can get the narrow gauge line up and running as soon as possible.”
Spoornet operations manager Tim Fox said all fresh produce from Port Elizabeth was transported by road and only citrus was transported by rail to the harbour.

“We also transport millions worth of manganese a year and we share half the market with roads in transporting cars,” Fox said.
Gliding through the valley

During a discussion between the department, the Dutch consultants, Spoornet and the Madiba Bay Development Agency yesterday, concern was raised that legislation currently limited small operators from running on smaller lines and then connecting to the main rail which transports goods to the harbour.
Poya said: “We are in the process of changing that legislation to accommodate more room for the operation of smaller operators.”

Poya said the Kei rail project from East London to Mthatha would be operating by the end of next year, while the line between East London and Alice will operate by April. After the research, the consultants would compile a report on what was needed to open the railway lines, Poya said.

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