The Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism has provided the funding for a feasibility study for the Apple Express that has been commissioned by the Mandela Bay Development Agency.
The feasibility study will look at the viability of the narrow gauge railway line that runs between Port Elizabeth and the Langkloof in terms of its potential for tourism, freight and passengers.
An earlier report found that operating the train purely for tourists would not be financially viable.
This follows an announcement by the Department of Public Enterprises that it will oversee the introduction of “multiple private rail operators on the branch line network to revitalise the rail network” by March next year.
The commitment to revive the branch line concession process is given in the memorandum to the department’s budget tabled with the National Budget.
Public Enterprise Minister stated in reply to a question in the National Assembly in November 2012 that Transnet Freight Rail intended to concession the narrow gauge railway lines in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Gigaba said a number of other branch lines in the Eastern Cape had been earmarked for concessioning including the Umtata-Amabele line; Sterkstroom-Maclear;Stormberg-Rosmead; the Dreunberg-Aliwal North to Barkley East line; the Rosmead-Klipplaat line; Alicedale-Grahamstown-Port Alfred line; and Barkley Bridge-Alexandria line.
Gigaba said timelines for these concessions “will be an outcome of the engagement processes with stakeholder”.