PROPOSAL FOR THE OPERATION OF THE PORT SHEPSTONE TO HARDING LINE
The Patons Country Narow Gauge Railway (P C N G R) has been operating the Banana Express since the middle of December 2004.
Although the lease has been of a temporary nature the company has spent some of the excess funds on 2 projects in the Port Shepstone area:
1. The refurbishment of the coaches. All the coaches sub assemblies have been completely overhauled and serviced at considerable cost. This had last been done many years ago and the sub assemblies were in a poor condition with amongst other items hand brakes not working, vacuum pans loosing vaccum and brake blocks worn. In addition a programme has been launched to refurbish all B wagons and DZ,s goods wagons as well as recover de railed wagons left on the side of the track by ACR.
Wagons and water tank reclaimed after being abandoned along the railway line for some 10 years. Wagons are basically still in good condition
Refurbishment of goods wagons at Port Shepstone railway workshops
2. Continued repairs to the line. The initial sum provided by the municipality was just enough to get the line in working condition. A programme of lubricating and re fastening and aligning fish plates was undertaken as well as work replacing additional sleepers in the yard, along the line and refurbishing and painting point sets.
This has ensured some 10 people have remained employed over the period of lease. Additional projects undertaken have been the laying of line standard gauge at Inchanga for Umgeni steam railway and the laying of narrow gauge line at Ixopo and toward Umzimkulu as well as the refurbishment of goods wagons at Ixopo. An additional 12 people have been employed on these projects making a total of 22 previously unemployed people benefiting.
Laying railway line between Ncalu and Umzimkulu
The Banana Express has been responsible for some 10000 visitors to date bringing in an additional income to Port Shepstone. Many other organizations and the whole district benefit from the train to a much greater extent than the Banana Express.
The Banana Express Project aims to transform an existing non-utilised asset into a dynamic income generating segment of an overall tourism initiative that will directly involve and contribute to the upliftment the poor and previously disadvantaged rural community.
The largely intact narrow gauge line between Port Shepstone and Harding will be re-instated to working order.
A tourist focussed steam or diesel hauled train service will convey both foreign and South African tourists from Port Shepstone to Izotsha and Paddock, from Paddock to Izingolweni, from Izingolweni to Bongwaan and from Harding to Bongwaan. and return. At the three halts provision will be made for the community members to establish tourism orientated micro-business ventures.
It is intended that the small business initiatives will provide a further link between The Banana Express and the local communities through the provision of tours by mini-bus to places of interest incorporating overnight stops.
The package offered by the Project is unique in that it will include easy access to accommodation in the traditional homes of local communities and appeal to a wide range of interests ranging from African traditional life and customs through nature lovers to steam buffs.
The package will directly benefit from the extensive experience gained in South Africa in the field of upliftment and development initiatives by Government, NGOs and the business sector.
Research into the success and failures experienced by upliftment projects will ensure that the Banana Express Project will be developed in a business like way.
The Banana Express segment of the overall tourism initiative will be managed and operated by the Patons Narrow Gauge Railway PCNGR a section 21 company, in close co-operation with the Tourism Association, the municipalities, local communities and landowners.
Comments on notes on tender documentation:
The Patons Country Narrow Gauge Railway is interested in restoring the permanent way as far as Harding as this is an ideal job creation opportunity and the train also serves as a means of bringing tourists to much needed impoverished areas in the interior who live along the line. The proposed service in the business plan illustrates how this would work.
It is imperative that all rolling stock be retained by the municipality including all freight wagons. These will form the basis of building additional coaches, spares as well as the introduction of a freight service between Harding and Port Shepstone.
A total of 4 and ideally 5 diesels should be earmarked for the project over the next year.
For a tourism venture to succeed steam has to be used. Funds need to be sourced by the municipality to restore and acquire additional steam locomotives - both Narrow and Standard Gauge. A list of locomotives can be provided by Transnet Heritage Foundation. The tourism potential needs to be expanded to a steam hauled standard gauge train from Durban to Port Shepstone. initially from Kelso to Port Shepstone. PCNGR is ready to introduce such a service and right now an access agreement needs to be negotiated by the municipality and locomotives acquired and restored. The infrastructure and staff exist at Port Shepstone to carry out this work.
PCNGR have a number of locomotives: The use of 2 NGG16 steam locos, NGG11 no 55 the oldest running narrow gauage garrat in the world, 3 sugar cane locos and a diesel. In addition 2 further locomotives will be restored NGG16 no 116 and NGG13 no 58 will both be restored over the next 12 months.
NGG16 no 116 ready for restoration by PCNGR
In addition the company has just completed the restoration of a 19D standard gauge locomotive for Creighton municipality and have been identified as partners with the municipality.
The 19D 2669 steaming by PCNGR for her boiler test at Masons Mill in Pietermaritzberg.
1. Proposed services are indicated in the buisiness plan and in the 3 year budget. These include a freight operation
2. Operating staff for the services exist in the organisation and from staff already employed at Port Shepstone. Additional members will have to be employed as the business grows.
3. The operator cannot be held solely responsible for maintenance of the permanent way. The Banana Express serves to bring tourists to visit and spend money at other tourist attractions in the area. It therefore becomes the responsibility for the whole area to contribute to maintenance of the track and bed. The funds thus need to come from the municipality and or central government. The operator should however make a contribution based on a cents per km basis or percentage of net ticket sales.
4. The proposed halts shuttle service and Local development plan should all fit in around the Banana Express which can enhance any plans.
Using local labour for infra structure construction at Creighton preparing to run the standard gauge steam operation.