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Wednesday Aug 12, 2015

Pietermaritzburg station revamp to focus on Gandhi

Plans are afoot to regenerate the Pietermaritzburg railway station area to the status befitting its association with Mahatma Gandhi who was famously thrown off a train there in June 1893.

Pietermaritzburg station.

The Msunduzi Municipality's executive committee last week approved of the development of a co-ordinated upgrade and maintenance programme to be implemented by the relevant municipal departments supporting proposals on the site.

In addition, talks would be initiated between the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and the municipality to develop the surrounding area known as the Pine Street block. An evacuation strategy would also be developed to remove people staying illegally on municipal property there.

Mayor Chris Ndlela said it was about time the area was revamped. "The appearance must be synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi," he said.

The city's town planner, Mthobisi Khumalo, said the city had a number of impoverished and decaying urban areas.

In recent years, the station area had experienced a rapid decline in its physical appearance and economic viability, subject to insufficient integrated planning and management.

A number of studies were being conducted and impacted on the station area.

These included the upgrade of Church Street and the inner city housing plan.

"Consideration would be given to these and other projects in preparation of the urban revitalisation plan for the station area."

Khumalo said the spatial development framework had proposed the railway station and vicinity as a major tourism node and tourist attraction, not only for its architecture, but also because of its association with Gandhi.

The upgrading and promotion of the station would have tourism benefits. "The creation of an internationally recognised tourism node would create spin-off side-effects for the surrounding area and provide much needed incentives to the neglected station area."

Asked for comment, the director of the Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association, Dumisani Mhlongo, welcomed news of the revamp. He said the area was unattractive at the moment.

"Heritage is a key destination selling point for Pietermaritzburg and the station was one of the sites whose upkeep has been embarrassing."

The Mercury


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