MPP and DA KZN Legislature Chief Whip Radley Keys

The proposed cable car that the provincial government would like to erect in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park would probably cost more than R60 million, an expert has said.

Craig Saunders, the co-owner of the Aerial Cableway that would open at Hartebeesport Dam at the end of the month, said this in an interview after the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for tourism, Mike Mabu-yakhulu, announced at the Indaba tourism trade show in Durban that the plan envisaged a 3 300-metre-long cableway.

It would boast an intermediate station, “climbing 1 300m to the summit, which will be an elevation of 3 300m above sea level, offering expansive views of KZN, Lesotho and the Free State”.

It would unlock the tourism potential in the area, bring jobs, and put the province on the national and international tourism map.

An advertisement for service providers to develop a feasibility study had already been issued, the MEC said.

It was too soon to say where the tourist attraction would be located.

Asked about the funding, Mabuyakhulu said the project would involve the government and strategic private partners.

Saunders said that three things had to be considered before a cable car project went ahead: financing, the environment and the location.

Referring to the environmental aspect, he said that the reality was that there would be zero impact as tourists travelling up the mountain would be in the air.

“You also have to have a high volume of people going to the cable car, which is why Cape Town is so successful, because they have the numbers.

“You can’t just have one little cable car, either. You have got to have high volumes in several cars as you have to pay back the investment capital.”

His Aerial Cableway had 14 gondolas, each capable of carrying six passengers.

The new cableway at the dam replaced the original one which was constructed in 1973, and which fell into disrepair and was closed in 2005 due to lack of proper maintenance.

While several tourism businesses have welcomed the prospect of a cableway, others are not so sure it will get off the ground.

Radley Keys, the DA KZN spokesman for conservation and environmental affairs, said yesterday that the plan was “no April Fools’ joke and raises major environmental concerns, along with questions over whether the initiative is to be self-funding or whether it is likely to become yet another financial burden to the province.”

The project had been on the cards since 2000, with one of the preferred sites then being the Mnweni Valley next to the Royal Natal National Park section of the World Heritage Site, he recalled.

“The success of the Table Mountain cableway lies largely in the fact that it is self-funding and does not rely on the provincial government for its economic survival,” Keys said. - Daily News