Rovos Rail celebrates 30 years in Africa

Since its first overnight journey with a seven-coach train to what was then the Eastern Transvaal, Rovos Rail has grown over the years and today has more trains offering eight trips around Southern Africa.

Journeys range from 48 hours to 15 days, and the newest route, Trail of Two Oceans, departed on its maiden voyage in July this year from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Lobito in Angola. It was the first time in history that a passenger train has travelled the east-to-west copper trail.

Known for its seamless luxury offerings that harks back to yesteryear, the Rovos Rail journey has not all been plain sailing.

It took a decade for the company to break-even. ‘We managed to side-step bankruptcy more than once,’ said Rohan Vos, owner and CEO of Rovos Rail Tours.
‘I was inexperienced and had no idea just how expensive trains would be to operate.’

Rovos Rail is currently producing a sixth train set, with completion aimed for December 2019. This means that the company will be able to have five Rovos Rail trains out at once on any of the eight journeys it offers, along with the Shongololo Express running on one of its three trips.

The Shongololo Express, also in the Rovos fleet, was purchased and renovated in 2016. It offers three journeys ranging from 12 to 15 days, with the train travelling for over 300 days of the year.

The business now employs 440 staff members at Rovos Rail Station, a private railway station and its headquarters in Pretoria.

In 1999, the derelict 60-acre property was rehabilitated and renovated to become the home of everything from the on-site laundry and kitchen to the locomotive and coach maintenance workshops, reservations and the finance department.

‘We have staff members here who have been with us since the beginning and over 100 employees who’ve been here for over 20 years,’ says Vos. ‘It’s quite incredible and unheard of these days so for this I am truly thankful.’

 

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