The Franschhoek Wine Tram has been built and is in Franschhoek, ready to roll in October, being the first Hop on Hop off winetasting tram service in the Winelands. It will be a valuable tourism boost to a village that has been badly affected by the recession.
This is the second attempt at establishing this service. Two years ago already it was announced that a steam train would be running on the existing but now unused railway line through the Franschhoek wine estates. The steam train proved to be environmentally unfriendly, while an imported train from Australia proved to be too expensive. The owners, father and son team David and Sean Blyth, the financiers and train and tram fanatics, were fortunate to find a local company to build a tram transporting 33 persons.
The ticket office will be at the first stop, behind the Station Pub, once the railway station building in Franschhoek. Stops along the way are the Franschhoek Cellar, Grande Provence, and Rickety Bridge. Tickets will cost R98, for an Hop on Hop off service, but exclude the tasting fees. Currently crossing three roads, each crossing will be manned with uniformed staff to warn drivers of the oncoming tram, safety being of utmost concern. The tram service will be expanded to cross the R45, their biggest challenge in terms of road safety, and warning lights and a bell will warm drivers of the tram crossing.
Wine estates that have expressed interest for the extension of the tram service are Allée Bleue, Gooding Grove, and Solms Delta, and ultimately it is planned to extend the service all the way to Paarl. Exciting too for the restaurants on the tram line is that the chefs of restaurants on the participating wine estates will offer Gourmet Tours on the tram, it running in the evenings as well. Each wine estate is planning its own special events for the tram visitors, and each will have a platform at the tram line, offering winetastings. The trip would take about an hour if one does not get out at the wine estates at which the tram stops.
One must salute the Blyths for investing in an innovative wine tourism service, which will be of benefit to all tourism players in Franschhoek, not just the wine estates through which the tram will roll. It will also position Franschhoek as an innovative and exciting wine destination.
POSTSCRIPT 17/11: The Franschhoek Wine Tram starts rolling today, with only two initial stops, at Grande Provence, and at Rickety Bridge, at the introductory price of R60.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage