High Speed Train Service for Kwazulu-Natal Announced
New High Speed Train Service for Kwazulu-Natal Announced and a Blast from The Past
It came as no surprise when the National Minister of Transport Sbusiso recently indicated that the Durban-Gauteng corridor was the busiest in the southern hemisphere, both in value and tonnage.
Traffic congestion between Durban and Pietermaritzburg has increased dramatically often resulting in traffic delays and carnage on the N3 between the two cities. The situation was aggravated when Pietermaritzburg was made the provincial capital housing the legislature and provincial departments.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is about to unveil the detail of its plan for the Durban-Pietermaritzburg express train service and the Durban-Johannesburg high speed train project. The projects have received the nod of approval from the Minister who said the express rail link between the two cities was "crucial".
Already dubbed the "Business Express"---- offering wireless internet and other services as part of an "office on wheels" concept --- is expected to be operating between the two cities by April 2012. The new service will target business and executive types who require better facilities and services. The trip will take less time than a usual train trip because there will be only one stop along the route at Rossburgh. The Pietermaritzburg and Rossburgh stations will be upgraded and safety and security will be a priority.
The latest announcement conjured images of the opening of this important rail link between the two centres on 1 December 1880 --- almost a hundred and thirty-one years ago. So enthusiastic were the good citizens of Pietermaritzburg about the opening of the rail that an organising committee had already been appointed in August to arrange the festivities for this great event. The arrival of the first train and officially opening of the line was an occasion of importance and magnitude not experienced in the Colony before.
Early on the morning of 1 December 1880, the town was astir. Vehicles of all descriptions found their way to the market square and the station and people from the district were streaming into the town. Business undertakings were closed and many buildings were adorned with flags and banners.
At 11:30 in the morning representatives of numerous bodies assembled at the market square to be part of a procession to march to the station. The procession began at 12:15, led by the band of the 80th Rifles followed the clergy, school children, civil servants , police, fire brigade, civic dignitaries, the Maritzburg Rifles and Natal Carbineers and the general public.
At 07:54 precisely, the official train, composed of a Kitson engine no 12 with five new passenger carriages carrying between 80 and 90 passengers departed from the Durban station on this historic journey. Various stops were made along the way to allow passengers to partake of refreshments.
Just before 13:30 the whistle of the inaugural train was heard by the exited crowd congregated at the Pietermaritzburg station (see image). Within minutes it steamed into the station to the orchestral strains of "See the conquering hero comes".
After a number of formalities were concluded, more than 200 invited guests sat down to a cold buffet in the goods shed. No less than 14 toasts were proposed from "The Queen" to "The press". Shortly after five o `clock that part of the celebrations came to an end.
Unfortunately, there is no record of the volume of bubbly consumed but taking the number toasts and the warm summer`s afternoon into account, it must have been considerable.
A large number of adults and children were also accommodated to music and refreshments in Alexandra Park. The celebrations were concluded with a fireworks display on the market square in the evening.
It was truly an occasion not easily forgotten in the annals of the Colony.