Table Mountain cableway
(Getty Images)
  • The Table Mountain cableway is expecting a surge in visitors from December to February.
  • Prior to the pandemic, busy season would see some 8,000 people travel up the mountain every day, leading to three-hour-long queues.
  • But a new "Fast Track" offering gives visitors an opportunity to skip these long queues, at an additional cost.
  • If that seems like a lot of money to get to the front, factor in current lockdown restrictions which limit the cable car's capacity.
  • And load shedding, which requires the cableway to switch to a slower hydraulic backup drive.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Cape Town sightseers will soon be able to skip the long queues waiting to board the Table Mountain cable car. This perk costs an additional R300.

Recently voted Africa's leading tourist attraction, for the third year in a row, Table Mountain is expecting a surge in visitors come the summer holiday season. Things have already picked up over the past month, since South Africa's lockdown restrictions were eased and travel bans dropped, according to the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC).

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a brutal impact on tourism. The Table Mountain cableway, which celebrated its 92nd birthday in October and is in the running to be named the Leading Cable Car Ride in the World, has first-hand experience of the coronavirus-induced downturn.

Even at its busiest time over the past year, during the previous summer holiday period, passenger volumes were still down 75% compared to pre-pandemic levels, Giselle Esau, TMACC's head of brand and marketing, told Business Insider South Africa.

But tourists are returning, and Esau expects December through February to be an extremely busy period for the cableway. In anticipation, the TMACC unveiled a new "Fast Track" option on Thursday, which is expected to be officially launched on Tuesday 2 November.

Table Mountain
Table Mountain Fast Track walkway at the lower station (Image supplied)

The "Fast Track" offers visitors an opportunity to skip the queue by using a separate entrance and walkway connected to the cableway station. At the lower station on Tafelberg Road, this is a newly constructed wooden pathway which loops around the rear of the also-new Vida e caffè viewing deck. At the top station, "Fast Track" passengers bypass the returning queue through the Wi-Fi lounge.

The fast-track option will cost an additional R300, on top of the normal price for a ticket, which ranges between R320 and R390 return, depending on the time of the day and season. Visitors can book online or at the ticket office with the "Fast Track" offering charged at R600 per round trip in off season and at R800 during peak season from 16 December 2021 to 5 January 2022

Although the cost to skip the queues almost doubles the price of a cableway excursion, Esau says that in peak season, when some 8,000 people are ferried up the mountain every day, three-hour-long queues are common.

Those are pre-pandemic queues. And while the sheer volume of passengers in the upcoming summer season is still to be seen – ongoing Covid-19 fears may still subdue travel or lockdown-induced cabin fever may see a boom – waiting times are likely to be even longer.

Each cable car has the capacity to transport 65 people. Current lockdown regulations, which impose social distancing restrictions on venues and services, limit that capacity to half. Where the cableway could once transport 800 people every hour, it now takes roughly double the time. That hasn't led to long queues over the past few months because the demand has still been stunted but, if the 50% capacity rule remains during the peak season, is likely to drastically increase future waiting times.

And it's not just capacity restrictions which could result in longer queues. The cableway isn't immune to load shedding.

When Eskom implements rotational power cuts, the TMACC switches the operations of its cable cars from the electricity grid to a hydraulic backup drive. Not only does this switch take time to complete and restart operations but, on hydraulic power, the cars can't match the 10-metre-per-second speed achieved when running off the grid.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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