It was with dismay that Friends of the Choo-Tjoe recently read a newspaper article entitled ‘Puffing some life into Choo-Tjoe talks’.
The fact that discussions have been ongoing for several years between Transnet and the provincial government with no apparent real progress is extremely disturbing. Very little information on the status of these discussions has been made public.
The article revealed that Minister Winde is “….on the verge of giving up in the face of continued silence from Transnet”.
The Garden Route needs businesses like the railway, not just for tourism with the associated employment spin-off and for future heritage transport with its educational benefits, but because we will soon need a rail transport link with other parts of the country when the lack of oil will preclude the transport of goods and passengers by road (or air).
The last thing we should do now is give up this vitally important lifeline. When oil runs out, towns like Knysna will surely suffer without a railway link to the main centres. The era of cheap and readily available oil is rapidly closing.
The major ‘industry’ in Knysna, Sedgefield and Wilderness exists to cater for the tourist; reduced tourism must equal reduced business and employment.
With an ever-increasing scarcity of crude oil fuel becomes more expensive, as does road repairs, as bitumen is a product of crude oil. Increasing road construction and repair costs will see higher road access tolls and licence charges.
Friends of the Choo-Tjoe therefore ask: “What can we do to help resolve this issue and preserve the railway?”
Firstly, we believe members of the public who feel as we do about the necessity of retaining the George to Knysna railway should become members. A strong and unified voice needs to be heard by the authorities.
Secondly, businesses – especially those associated with tourism – should make their voices heard and agitate for the retention of the railway.
Much work has been done to develop plans to reopen the railway but Transnet appears reluctant to enter into discussions about these plans.
We appeal to everyone who believes that the Choo-Tjoe icon should be saved not to sit on their hands and hope that the authorities will act decisively and with pragmatism. Let us join hands so that together we will have a better chance to save the railway and the Choo-Tjoe.
Please don’t delay, join us today!
Fraser Howell, Knysna