The Diaz Express passenger rail service will deliver Dias to the festival arena tomorrow.Photo: Supplied
MOSSEL BAY NEWS - The Diaz Express, Mossel Bay's new rail-bound shuttle service, has published its schedule for February 2015, effectively its second month of operation.
"The Diaz Express was developed in response to the success of a trial service that was run by the George-based Outeniqua Power Van on the Mossel Bay-Hartenbos line at the request of the Mossel Bay Municipality during the 2012-13 summer holidays," said the company's mana-ging director, Pierre Poolman.
"It was set up to help relieve the pressure of traffic on the roads between the two destinations, and from the outset it was clear that it was a service that was desperately needed - but also one that the passengers really enjoyed," he said.
Mr Poolman said that he and his partners - the managing director of the Outeniqua Power Van, Nicol Marais, and local hotelier and businessman, Albert Wiffen, received official permissions to run the service only two days before Christmas, 2014.
The company had previously acquired three Wickham Type 40 Mark II inspection trolleys built in the late '60s and early '70s, and had had two of them restored at the Voorbaai Yards in Mossel Bay - the third had recently been restored in Knysna by the Friends of the Choo-Tjoe.
Running together, the trolleys provide a capacity of up to 32 passengers per schedule.
"Although we'd missed the first part of the season, we were ready for departure when the call came, so we started operating as soon as we could," said Mr Poolman.
He said that the plan is to provide both a regular, sustainable, year-round shuttle service, as well as a flexible excursion service.
"We're still in an experimental phase, so we're testing the schedules. During February the shuttle will run on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with departures from Hartenbos at 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00, and return trips from Santos at 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00.
"The one-way trip takes 45 minute, and passengers can take any return trip - depending on how long they want to spend enjoying the attractions on offer at either end."
Mr Poolman said that the service will also run on Wednesdays between Santos Station near the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex, and the Little Brak River or Great Brak River Stations - departing Santos at 09:00 and returning at 16:30.
"We need at last 21 passengers to make the Wednesday excursions service pay, and as long as we have that many, we can be quite flexible as to how far we go along the line, depending for instance on whether the group chooses to enjoy a wine tasting or to relax with a meal specially prepared for them at a Restaurant at Great Brak," he said.
Mr Poolman said that the company chose Santos as a departure and destination point because of its proximity to the Santos Blue Flag Beach, and the Dias Museum.
"Guests on the Diaz Express can park their cars safely in the CBD, close to restaurants and Mossel Bay Tourism's Information centre, and amble through the museum grounds (entry is free of charge from Mondays to Thursdays) on their way down to the station to board the waiting Express."
Mossel Bay Tourism's Marcia Holm congratulated the company on its successful launch.
"The line follows the coast, and the unhurried pace of the trollies offers wonderful opportunities for viewing the Bay, the beaches, the fynbos, and the mountains from a unique perspective - and you could even be lucky enough to see whales and dolphins in the water from the comfort of your seat," she said.
"The Diaz Express should appeal to tour groups, independent travellers, and holiday makers - and given the natural beauty of the route, we expect that it'll become a major attraction for Mossel Bay and, in fact, for the whole of the Garden Route."
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