The Gautrain routes
I was very excited to try out the Gautrain while in Jozi. I had watched this documentary on the Discovery channel about how it was made and I was totally blown away by the challenges they overcame and the technicalities involved. I felt very proud indeed because South Africa had built something really amazing and was finally getting there with regards to public transport.
Anybody’s who’s travelled a bit will tell you that our public transport has always been pretty sad compared to what you see overseas. Some kind of underground transport was well overdue. I’ve used both the subway in NY and the Paris underground and loved the convenience of it and also how very cheap it was (even when converted into our sad little Rands ).
So yeah, back in Jozi, I had heard those stories about people being fined for chewing gum on the Gautrain, but never paid too much attention to it. I figured it was just some kind of media sensationalism or something. That was until I spotted this sign:
Hectic… not even a sip of water?
But I do get it. People can be very messy, so strict rules don’t surprise me in the least. We want our shiny new Gautrain system to stay awesome, right? Right. So by these rules we will all have to live.
From the piccies below you can see that it’s definitely working, just look how neat & clean it is everywhere:
Pretty nice hey. There’s also lots of security, so you feel very safe. Something which I can’t say for NY for example. Their subway gets quite dodgy late at night… (and there are lots of movies to back me up on that one. hehe)
The cost to get from OR Tambo to Rosebank is R125 one way (and the trip takes about 25min or so). BUT they also nail you a non-refundable R11 for a gold card which also serves as your ticket. Now I know R11 isn’t necessarily a big deal, but it’s the principle of it that really annoyed me. I mean I was only in town for 1 night and would probably never have use for that card again. Same would go for an international tourist for example who’s only using it on a once off occasion to get to their hotel. It only makes sense if you’re a Gauteng local and you use the train a lot. Then you can buy a 7 day or 35 day pass and get a 10 – 20 % discount. Overseas you can also buy similar deals and then you sometimes get a special card, but I’ve certainly never had to pay for a card overseas just to get a single ticket. I just don’t agree with it. I’ve heard somewhere that our MyCiti airport bus might also start doing something similar and I really hope they don’t… but ja.
We just missed the train as we walked onto the platform, so we had to wait about 30min for the next one (but not all trains take that long for the next one – we were there on a Sat which is off peak and the town trains were like 12 - 20 min apart). When that gorgeous train finally arrived, I was super impressed. Just look how sexy this baby is:
And inside it’s pretty snazzy as well:
Seems blue is like a standard train / bus / airplane seat colour all over the world.
From the airport you mostly travel above ground. But as you get closer to the city, you’re “goin’ deeper underground, du-du-du-du du-du-du-du, there’s too much panic in this town, I’m goin’ deeper underground”… apologies, I had a moment there. But who else is totally obsessed with that Jamiroquai song? Loved it so much and it never really featured as a big hit. Anyways. Moving on. This is what the Gautrain underground looks like:
Again, all shiny and clean and brilliant. Also I have to note that the trains were very punctual and announcements about next stops, next trains, etc. were excellent.
For more “local” stops things still stay quite pricey though. A single stop from Rosebank to Sandton for example will cost you R20 one way (that’s about a 5min trip & from what I could see R20 is the minimum). Rosebank to Centurion is for example R40 one way. Now to me, that doesn’t really make sense. Using the train should be far cheaper than using a meter taxi or your car to make it more enticing for the public to use. Or am I missing something here? Yes you save time sitting in traffic. But in the end it will always boil down to the money (well at least for me it would).
If you Google the topic you’ll find there was initially a lot of critisism when the project was seeking approval. People called it “a train for the rich”, mostly because the Gautrain system doesn’t serve any of the township areas. I hear them on that one. And yes it would be great if the project could be extended to service those areas (I’m just guessing that would require some crazy additional funding). But the current prices would be a huge problem. I mean you can’t tell me that even with the current routes there isn’t a wide variety of people who fall within very different income categories who would all like to make use of the train…
So in summary I’m going to say I do love the Gautrain, they’ve done an incredible job & the job creation around it has been great. I just really wish they would take another look at the pricing to make it accessible to more people.