The Friends of the Choo-Tjoe committee have collected more than 11 000 signatures in just nine months on a petition to reopen the George to Knysna railway line and famed Garden Route tourist attraction, the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam train.
According to Fraser Howell, front man of the committee, the 67km George to Knysna railway line opened in 1928, and was closed because of extensive flood damage in August 2006.
Further flood damage occurred in November 2007. The line was operated as the official Transnet Heritage Trust Line from about 1993 until its closure.
“The Friends of the ChooTjoe was formed in September 2010 to support all parties who wanted to see this worldrenowned railway icon of the Garden Route reinstated to full working order,” Howell explained.
“The Friends cannot understand how such an asset to the Garden Route in general, and the local economy in particular, cannot be put to work for the benefit of tourism and heritage rail, with the attendant multiplier for employment,” he said.
Since the closure, various parties, including the provincial government, had tried to get Transnet to either reopen the line itself, or to at least pass the assets, including the line, locomotives and coaches, into a trust that could organise and administer the reopening and operation.
Howell said the response from most officials had been supportive. And they hoped that after six and a half years of closure, the line would be reopened as soon as possible.
For more information, go to www.friendsofthechootjoe.co.za.
Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)