IT took seven years to accomplish, but this holiday season the iconic Apple Express was back on track, albeit only for a period of three weeks along a shortened route and sporting a new name. The steam train, which last took to the tracks in 2010 and subsequently fell victim to coper thieves, was launched again at the end of last year with its locomotive sporting a bright red jacket and a new name. The relaunched narrow gauge steam train made its first trip on December 26, carrying passengers between Kings Beach and the Port Elizabeth Airport. The last two scheduled trips for the festive season, which at time of going to print on Monday, were already fully booked, will take place this Saturday and Sunday. “In future, the train will be named the Nelson Mandela Bay Steam Train,” said Andrew Whitfield, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Development, Tourism and Agriculture at the media launch. Nerina Skuy, CEO of the Apple Express Rail Company, said the relaunch of the train was due in great part to the efforts of the volunteers, with many years of experience, who ensured that the train is preserved for future generations. “The train will now be used to boost development for the future of the metro,” said Skuy. The relaunch was aimed at looking at the feasibility of running the train in the future. “We are very grateful for the overwhelming reaction from the public,” said Skuy According to Whitfield, the first phase to get the wheels rolling again cost R2 million. This enabled the train to offer an hour-long ride from Kings Beach to the Port Elizabeth Airport. “But with phase two the train will ride all the way through Walmer township to the Baywest Shopping Centre,” said Whitfield. Discussions will be held with the residents of Walmer Township about the project before work is started on the track in the township. There are also plans afoot to build a platform for passengers at the Baywest Shopping Centre.