KNYSNA NEWS - During his visit to Knysna on Friday 6 November, DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen and other DA members attended the old Knysna Train Station, where was given an update on the latest attempts to revive the iconic Outeniqua Choo Tjoe.
The chief point of discussion was the possibility of reopening the line from Knysna. In the meeting, DA Constituency Head Dion George said the DA is "very keen to have the Choo Tjoe up and running again", adding, "There are talks and discussions under way with various individuals and organisations, and good progress has been made."
The Choo Tjoe has not been active in Knysna for 14 years, after the line to George was closed due to damage suffered during floods in August 2006.
In November 2006, it was rescheduled to run between George and Mossel Bay, which continued until September 2010. In the 10 years since, there have been several plans and hopes to revive the iconic train line, but none have been successful thus far.
Attendees were briefed by representatives of Classic Rail, which has been driving a campaign to bring the Choo Tjoe back to Knysna since 2006.
According to Classic Rail's 2018 budget for the project, Phase 1 of the line (Knysna to Sedgefield) could cost an estimated R85-million, with funding coming through private investment. A timeline is yet to be established as the project is currently awaiting further feedback.
Classic Rail spokesperson, Martin Hatchuel, said progress has been made nevertheless.
"We've had various meetings along the way, with the latest being October last year," Hatchuel said. "After the meeting, all that we required to get back to restoring parts of the line was concession from national government. We still need this concession, but we do remain positive."
One of the groups involved in attempts to revive the line in recent years is Friends of the Choo Tjoe (FoCT), and according to secretary Kees Estié they still hold onto hopes that the line can reopen.
"It would really mean a lot to people in the area if we could get the train up and running again," he said. "If people can get fire under this and get it going, it would be a great boost for the local economy."
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