The possibility that at some time the road and rail bridge at Victoria Falls may be re-sited downstream does not imply dismantling the existing bridge, with its historic associations, Mr Ron Underwood, Chief Tourism Development Officer, said yesterday.
“We have not approached the new Government and we do not know what priority will be given to tourism,” he said.
“The scheme would mean constructing another road and rail bridge lower down the river. It would cost a great deal,” he said. “It would entail realigning part of the main road.”
The aim would be to take road and rail traffic out of Victoria Falls village, and leave the Falls environment purely for tourists.
“This is just a suggestion, only since peace has come is it worth thinking about,” he said.
“I personally see the old bridge retained and used as a footbridge, or sightseeing bridge by people from both sides of the river.
“You must realise that with peace there will be an enormous amount of road and rail traffic passing within view of Victoria Falls. So it would be ideal to move the main road away from the falls.”
Where did he think a new bridge should be sited?
“I would think below the gorges, but this is long term thinking. The preservation of this beautiful area would be a fine thing.”
A Bulawayo businessman, Mr W R Sanderson – a former chairman of Bulawayo Publicity Association – said the idea of closing the bridge to road and rail traffic had been discussed by the association some years ago.
The thinking then was that the bridge should be used purely for pedestrians as a sightseeing platform. This would, it was suggested, thin out the number of tourists clambering through the rain forest or around the verges of the Falls.
The problem of erosion of the river verges would increase as the number of tourists in the area multiplied. He thought this was why the idea was again being put forward.
Mr Louis Bolze, a Bulawayo book publisher, said it was Cecil Rhodes’ wish that train passengers should have the pleasure of spray from the Falls blowing across the train. Though he died before the bridge was opened, Rhodes was the pioneer of this country’s tourist industry, Mr Bolze said.
He said there was sense in realigning the road and rail line to eliminate the “balloon loop” between the bridge and the railway station.
Mr Stuart Irwin, Director of the National Museum and the senior official of the Bulawayo section of National Museums and Monuments of Rhodesia, said that though his organisation had taken no active part in the administration of the Falls areas in recent years, “any change would have to have our agreement”.
“I would say that the bridge itself has become as much a part of the National Monuments set-up as the Falls,” he said.
“If they want to build a new bridge, fine! But don’t touch the old one.”
A problem was that “there are so many bodies involving with the Falls; ourselves, National Parks and Wild Life, Commerce and Industry, and Tourism – and some others.”
Mr John Wilson, chairman of Victoria Falls Publicity Association, said re-siting the road and rail bridge was a good idea.
“I should imagine the old bridge would stay for normal pedestrian traffic.”
Heavy traffic through the Falls was increasing, he said.
The Secretary for Transport and Power, Mr P G H Lamport-Stokes, said he had heard no suggestion of realigning the railway line and main road at the Falls.
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