Paper presented at the 21st Annual South African Transport Conference 15 - 18 July 2002 "Towards building capacity and accelerating delivery", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.
South Africa’s extensive rail network, which in the past provided an effective transportation
link between most of its towns and cities, has contributed significantly towards the economic development of more remote regions in the country. Unfortunately during the past three decades, mainly due to competition from road transport, the majority of branchand narrow gauge lines serving rural communities have been abandoned. At present only two narrow gauge (2 foot or 610 mm) lines remain operational in South
Africa primarily because of their tourist potential, one in Kwazulu-Natal and the other one
in the Eastern Cape. Their future however is uncertain as increasing maintenance and
operating expenditure threaten to exceed income. In addition road haulage companies continue to draw existing clients away from rail transport.
This paper discusses the economic potential of one of the two remaining narrow gauge lines, the one located in the Province of the Eastern Cape. (The findings however, should prove generic to other rail projects in South Africa and the rest of the sub-continent.) Originally constructed to haul export fruit from the fertile Langkloof and Gamtoos Valley to the harbour at Port Elizabeth (PE), this “little” railway has in recent years become famous because of its tourist train named ‘The Apple Express’.
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