Historic Hilton station to be refurbished in R4,6 million project

2013-04-23 00:00

HILTON’S historic railway station is to be upgraded at a cost of R4,6 million for economic development and as a tourist attraction.

The decision is the result of negotiations between uMngeni Municipality and the Hilton Steam Heritage Association.

The association’s chairperson, Grant Fryer, said comments on various community Facebook sites and in the Hilton Community Policing Forum about the urban decay of the mothballed railway station site were noted and a public meeting was held at the Hilton Hotel.

“Over the past two years many ideas were tabled and finally a business plan was put together,” said Fryer.

He said their business plan was accepted by the uMngeni Municipality’s local economic development portfolio committee for the 2013/14 financial year in the sum of R4,6 million.

He said other proposals by community members and businesses had been tabled before the committee.

“The plans are to improve and sustain the area as a tourism destination marking the start of the Midlands Meander route,” said Fryer.

There were also plans to refurbish the original steam locomotives.

Fryer said the station had received protection status from the heritage body, Amafa.

He said the railway track was part of the original main line between Durban and Johannesburg and dated back to 1888, and some of the steam locomotives dated back to the early 1900s.

The initiative was a community project and it is planned to set up an open-air market where vendors could sell beadwork and other handicrafts.

In the first phase, a steam locomotive would run between Hilton and Cedara, a distance of six kilometres,which would be extended as the project gained momentum.

There was already overseas interest in the project because Hilton had three kinds of locomotive — a Class H2, a North British Tanker and a One Class — which were not found anywhere else in the world, Fryer added.

UMngeni Municipality manager Dr Mpilo Ngubane said the project had the potential to attract tourists, and the municipality approved the funding because it would improve revenue generation and create job opportunities.

“Once the railway station has been upgraded, it will put Hilton on the map to prepare for the presidential strategic infrastructure project, which will be aimed at upgrading transport infrastructure from KZN to the Free State,” said Ngubane.

He said the municipality ultimately wanted to see commuters taking the train between Hilton and Durban.

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