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Take the train to Pretoria Print E-mail
03 August 2011

Thousands of people voted for Gautrain with their rands on the first day of operations – some 7 000 passengers took the high-speed ride between Joburg and Pretoria.

JUST five hours after its launch, more than 7 000 commuters had hopped on the new Gautrain service between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

 

Gautrain is reliable, says MEC Ismail Vadi
Gautrain is reliable, says MEC Ismail Vadi
The high speed rail link was built to cut traffic, more often very congested than not, between the province’s two economic hubs. The important city-to-city route was finally opened on 2 August.

 

The first train, which left Hatfield in Pretoria at 5.26am for the Johannesburg suburb of Rosebank, ferried hundreds of commuters to work.

According to Gautrain management, it had taken 2 000 passengers by 7am, and just two hours later had added another 5 000 to that number.

Gauteng transport and roads MEC, Ismail Vadi, was one of the first passengers. “Within 37 minutes from Hatfield we were in Rosebank,” he said, referring to a trip that could take up to two hours or more in peak traffic.

Vadi added that he found the much-anticipated ride to be “smooth, fast, comfortable and safe”. At its maximum allowed speed of 160km per hour, it’s the fastest way to travel in South Africa besides air travel.

Commuter Mphengoa Phoko was one of the first to take the train. She used to drive daily from Pretoria to her workplace in Johannesburg, but said she would ride the Gautrain from now on. “It’s convenient and less stressful,” Phoko said, responding to a question from her seat. “After a long day at work I won’t have to concentrate on driving.”

The Gautrain route between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park, which was launched just before the football World Cup in 2010, has already ferried about three million commuters in little more than a year.

 

Minister Sbu Ndebele
Minister S'bu Ndebele: Gautrain the future of public transport
The Pretoria-Johannesburg route is expected to surpass that figure before the end of 2011, as it attracts thousands of people who commute to work daily.

 

“Gautrain is the future for public transport in South Africa,” said Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele, hinting that in future the government may look at introducing such high-speed trains elsewhere.

The much shorter route between Rosebank and the Johannesburg CBD is expected to go live later in 2011 after outstanding work is completed, bringing on board thousands of new passengers. Gautrain offers a reliable alternative for motorists who were previously not comfortable with the country’s public transport.

“Leave your car at home, you can use it over the weekend,” Ndebele said.

Provincial government
The Gauteng provincial government, then led by former premier Mbhazima Shilowa, launched plans for the rapid rail system in 2004. “We travelled the length and breadth of the world, looking for technology,” recalled Qedani Mahlangu, the MEC of economic development.

She said they inspected train stations in densely populated areas like London and Paris, and also visited countries like Spain and Switzerland to gain insight into rapid rail systems.

The Bombela Consortium, which comprises international groups Bombardier and Bouygues Travaux Publics, as well as South African civil contractor Murray & Roberts and the Strategic Partners Group, became a private sector partner to Gauteng’s provincial government in 2005.

 

Waiting to borad Gautrain
Passengers wait to board the Gautrain at Sandton Station
Gautrain CEO Jack van der Merwe told journalists the government’s resolution to complete the project was commendable. “You can’t tackle a project like this without political support; you’ve got to have it,” he said.

 

Up to 8 000 people worked on Gautrain during its construction. Mahlangu said the consortium also recruited South Africans who had left the country.

Metrorail
Now that Gautrain construction is almost complete, the government can focus on other public rail projects.

It is to spend R30,2-billion over the next three years to improve the services of the Metrorail trains, which transport millions of South Africans to and from townships surrounding Johannesburg and other major cities daily.

Ndebele said the government’s plan to upgrade metro trains was so that “you don’t have a Gautrain that’s comfortable and fast, but have a Metrorail that’s pedestrian”.

From MediaClubSouthAfrica.com.

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