It appears that South African Railways wishes to sell not only the equipment but the "franchise" to operate a luxury train service within South Africa.
The document linked above is 45 pages in length and 6.7MB. Such may "overtax" older systems such as WIN98 and dial-up ISP connections; if that be the case, here is a press release regarding the proposed transaction (16KB).
Having not yet read the document , i would suspect the blue train is "a bit lacking" in terms of the standard of facilities expected by todays luxury train patrons .
i have recently watched a video on Rovos Rail (world class trains, Rovas rail , the pride of Africa , www.pegasus-ent.com) , an excellent operation form Capetown .
I recall the owner alluding to this on that dvd .
well , having read the pdf file , and rewatched the rovos dvd , i see ive got my wires crossed . The rovos rail Man was comparing the cabin size on the rovos rail to the Blue train , at 2 to 3 cabins per carriage , rovos is far more spacious than any other train in the world .
the pictures shown of the Blue train interiors , do seem to be top class after all .
I wonder how the finances of the Blue train have changed , due to the aparthied changes in South africa , presuming alot of the staff are African , and that their wages have increased .
I travelled on the Blue Train several times during the time of white government. The front-of-house staff were all European (more likely Afrikaaners than English) Some of the staff like kitchen hands and bed-makers were "coloured" (i.e mixed race) but I never recall seeing any "black" (native African) staff.
This was common at the time in 5-star hotels and premium restaurants.
The train itself was not segregated as far as passengers went. Anybody who could afford the fare was entitled to travel and they were not booked into an "end" of the train or denied access to the dining or lounge facilities.
As built in '72 the train accommodated about 100 passengers and most 70-80) of these were in compartments with only washing facilities. Toilets and showers were "down the passage."
The best accommodation was the "A" suite which had a separate bedroom with two fixed beds, a desk/dressing table, large closets a sitting room with a 2-seater sofa, table and two movable armchairs, a well-stocked bar (drinks complimentary) and a bathroom (with tub)
Thanks Peter , loooks like im wrong again , but i was thinking more of maintenance staff etc . The rovos rail dvd shows a huge staff of maintenance workers , but they are rebuilding and maintaing 1920's carriages .
There is a series on World Class Trains, PBS, and a documentary on the Blue Train is one of them. Appears to be first class, and they wait on you hand and foot. Accordingly, you pay for it. It is a tour type excursion, where you are in a different town or city each day, and provisions have been made to tour the sites in the area visited. Appears to be a constant theme these days on luxury train excusions, copying luxury ocean liners and cruises. The train is your traveling Hotel.
During the previous South African regime a large number of "behind the scenes" jobs in the SAR and other essential services were "reserved" for whites. This was partly to ensure a high white employment rate but also to ensure that the economy could not be ground to a halt by racially-inspired strike action. Apartheid began at about the time that India gained independence from Britain and the South Africans would have remembered that Gandhi had started his political career in SA as an advocate for the rights of the local Indian population.
The Blue train has become more tourist/cruise orientated in recent years but, initially, it was the fast "through" train from Pretoria/Johannesburg to Capetown and was heavily patronised by local politicians and businessmen as well as foreign tourists.
It was perhaps the last long-distance luxury train in the world to be condidered a serious transport option rather than a "land cruise" or an "experience."
I remember one trip (I think in '82) when my partner and I booked the "A" suite about 10 months in advance and were effusively greeted by the Train Manager (a Mr Van der Merwe) on the platform at Pretoria Station.
Soon after departure he visisted us and told us that the SAR and government were grateful that our early booking had averted a "diplomatic incident." It appeared that both the US and British ambassadors were travelling that day and our occupancy of the single best suite meant that there was no embarassment over which of them should be allocated it. (They were given the "B" suites of which there were two)
That's the "Garden Route" Blue Train, I think from Capetown to Port Elizabeth. Definitely a tourist/cruise operation and not done that frequently.
The trip I am referring to was the classic, direct Pretoria-Jo'burg-Capetown run via Kimberley, De Aar and Beaufort West. It used to leave Pretoria at 10:00, Jo'burg 11:10-11:30 and arrive Capetown at 12:00 next day. That's about an hour faster than at present because then Kimberley was just a stop and now it's an off-line tour.
Best scenery on that run was descending the Hex River pass approaching Capetown.
An interesting aspect of this trip was that arrival in Capetown had to be EXACTLY on time because the station was near an old waterfront fort that traditionally fired a noonday gun and the Blue Train was expected to draw to a halt just as the cannon was fired.
I travelled on the Capetown to Port Elizabeth mail. Nearly 39 non-airconditioned hours (2 nights) to traverse a circuitous 675 mile route between two cities less than 500 miles apart by road.
The 1920s style diner had been taken of a few months earlier and replaced by a "kitchen car" from which staff delivered basic meals in foil containers to passenger's compartments. The reason for this trip was to see the spectacular scenery of the Montagu pass through the Outeniqua Mountains between George and Oudtshoorn and, guess what, there was a dense fog that morning.
A much more memorable trip was from Durban to Jo'burg on the short-lived "Drakensberg Express" This was a refurbished version of the original air-conditioned Blue Train delivered just before WWII which retained original features such as the rich timber panelling. The journey took about 14 hours (overnight) and food and service were comparable with the new Blue Train.
My guess would be that the Orient Express company might be interested in taking up the Blue Train operation as they already own 5-star hotels in Capetown and Jo'burg.
The current Blue Train was built in 1997. Two complete sets are in operation. They've survived a head-on crash with the Trans Karoo Express and a fire within the last couple of years. I travelled on one of these sets in 2000 from Pretoria to Victoria Falls and the standard of luxury is very high indeed. Specially designed bogies give a comfortable ride on rough tracks. It regularly runs to Cape Town and I think it still does the Garden Route. We were shunting in the Blue Train yard a week ago and saw that the Blue Train stock is still kept to a high standard.
Rovos Rail is probably more luxurious than the Blue Train, but the Blue Train is still very luxurious, and cheaper than Rovos. I've fired the Rovos steam engines from time to time but never travelled on the train, although I did get to walk through it once and see what's inside. They have some very interesting old dining cars, but most of their coaches are converted from more modern stock. They've recently obtained more coaches (from Spier in Cape Town amongst others) and can put together several complete trains. Rovos is based in Pretoria. One of their regular runs is Pretoria to Cape Town. They also do regular trips to Durban, and occasionally to Victoria Falls and Dar es Salaam, as well as local charters. Normally their trains are steam-hauled only for the first 20kms or so in and out of Pretoria, but this year they did a steam safari to Zimbabwe which seemed to go well.
Spoornet (or in fact its passenger arm, Shosholoza Meyl) offers another luxury train, Premier Classe, from Jo'burg to Cape Town. It began a couple of years back as four luxury coaches attached to the end of the Trans Karoo, but it now runs twice a week in each direction as an independent train. It's currently being upgraded to have air conditioning throughout (rather than just in the lounge and dining car). I've travelled on it a few times. It's not as luxurious as Rovos Rail or the Blue Train but still pretty good, and it's extremely good value for money. I've just booked another one way ticket on it for ZAR980, which is about USD140. Not bad to travel 1,000 miles in 26 hours in 5-star luxury. There are rumours that Premier Classe may also start running to Durban.
Shosoloza Meyl's other long distance trains have now been divided into "tourist" sleeper trains, and "economy" trains with only sitting accommodation. I've travelled quite often on the regular sleeper trains and they are very good, and ridiculously cheap.