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Monday Aug 20, 2018

Durban-Pietermaritzburg express train on the cards again

Former eThekwini boss S'bu Sithole is to revive the business express train project between Durban and Pietermaritzburg which never took off since it was mooted in 2009.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily News this week, Sithole said more investment would be required.

He said since he took over as the Passenger Rail of SA (Prasa) acting chief executive, the initial route earmarked for the train, the new main line from Durban Station via Cato Ridge, had been dumped for the old main line from Durban Station via Pinetown.

"The minister had asked me to look into how we can resuscitate the project. The rail line between the two cities is used by Transnet, so it has not been configured for passenger trains," Sithole said.

He said he was not given a time frame to complete the project.

When the project was first mooted, Prasa had said two trains, each with 12 coaches, carrying 380 passengers, would be refurbished to suit business people and government employees commuting between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

The train was to run between the two cities in 90 minutes.

On December 15, 2014, the Daily News took part in the first test run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. The journey took three hours.

At the time, Prasa Rail chief executive Mossengwa Mofi had said the trains, done up at a cost of about R50 million to R60m, were expected to be fully operational by April 2016.

Eddie Chinnappen, a civil engineer and Prasa Rail's general manager who was on board during the test run, said the landscape was a challenge in covering the 74km distance on time. "The terrain is making the ride longer than anticipated," he said.

Manuel "Manny" De Freitas, MP, the DA spokesperson for Transport, said nothing had been tabled in the portfolio committee on the project in "recent times".

"These are issues that are to be clarified by the department political head and I'll be writing to him," De Freitas said.

Ravi Ronny, the SA National Roads' Agency's eastern region design and construction manager, said "resuscitating" the project would be beneficial for the motorists on the N3.

"Having this train will bring some relief from traffic congestion, especially during peak hours," Ronny said.

Chris Ndaliso
Daily News


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