SOUTH AFRICA: Speaking at the departure on March 1 of the first passenger train in 20 years to use the line, Transport Minister Jeff Radebe said about R133m had been spent on reinstating the 281 km branch to Mthatha from Amabele on the East London - Johannesburg main line.

The minister said the branch is one of eight being revitalised across the country 'particularly within the small towns as a way of activating the economic potential in remote areas.'

The Mthatha line follows a spectacular route, climbing 500 m to cross the Great Kei river. Passenger trains will initially run at weekends, and it is projected that 1·4 million tonnes of timber a year will be transported from the Ugie, Langeni and the Nyibeni areas for the next 30 years.

  • At the launch, Eastern Cape Member of the Executive Council Thobile Mhlahlo announced plans to open a Rail Centre for Excellence at Walter Sisulu University, in partnership with the University of Delft, Netherlands Railways and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.