According to Mandela Bay Development Agency CEO Pierre Voges, the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Dedeat) has allocated R1.5 million for a study to suggest means by which the Apple Express, currently out of use, could be made a viable operation. The study is to examine the potential of the Port Elizabeth-Avontuur narrow-gauge (610mm) line in terms of freight and passengers (including tourists). Voges sees the line as one of PE’s major potential tourist attractions.
In 2010, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) called for proposals for the concessioning of a number of branch lines, among them the Apple Express, that were no longer part of its core business of transporting freight. At the end of 2011, TFR CEO Siyabonga Gama said four branch line concessions would be announced shortly, though the Apple Express was not one. Documentation prepared by Transnet ahead of the branch line concessioning process said an assessment of the potential future demand for key freight groups on the line showed “strong growth for wood and wood products over the next several decades. Strong growth is also expected across a range of other key commodities including food and construction materials.” The documentation pointed out that in 2008 approximately 16,000 tons of wood and wood products were transported on the line and this was “expected to grow substantially in the future”.