My 2 cents about The Gautrain

Most of you reading this post have probably used (or at least heard of) the Gautrain system which has been operating since June 2010 in parts of Gauteng province. It first started out as quick way to get from Sandton to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. It has since expanded to an-almost full-on commuter service operating between Pretoria and Johannesburg. According to the latest figures, about 28,000 people use the Gautrain system on a daily basis to commute between their place of work and their home. This figure is expected to increase when the system expands to include Johannesburg Park Station early in next year.

To my knowledge, there have only been 2 days on which major problems were experienced since the Gautrain service started operating between Pretoria and Johannesburg (in August). Both times cable theft was the cause for the disruptions. Today services were disrupted Β by an illegal bus worker strike (which has happened before if I recall correctly). There have also been 1 or 2 times where services were delayed due to maintenance on the tracks. But, in general there have been no major hiccups if you look at the big picture.Β I’ve used this service extensively over the last 2 months and overall I’m impressed. The Gautrain has certainly changed the way I commute between Gauteng’s twin cities. The system works, if you ask me. This post contains my views about the system as it is currently and some recommendations for improvements.

Things About The Gautrain That Impress Me:

  • It’s Convenient: For a person living in Pretoria who doesn’t have a driver’s license yet (yes I know its a shame) it really makes getting somewhere in JHB much more easier for me.
  • It’s Comfortable: The seats on the trains and buses are comfortable. Not a bumpy ride at all (doesn’t matter if you’re using a train or a bus).
  • It’s Quick: Passing the Brakfontein interchange (N1/N14) at 160 km/h in rush hour, watching the traffic jams as you’re travelling and zipping past the cars on the highway going in the same direction as you is an awesome feeling. The mere fact that you can get from Hatfield (in Pretoria) to Sandton in 36 minutes (including stops) is truly amazing.
  • The System Is User Friendly: I didn’t struggle using the system the first time. It really is user friendly. I’m sure chimpanzees could use the Gautrain system (if they were allowed to do so).
  • It’s Reasonably Priced: Taking a metered taxi from Pretoria to OR Tambo International Airport can cost you anything between R250 and R450 (depending on the taxi service you use). R125 for a one way ticket from any station in Pretoria to OR Tambo is a bargain. +/- R100 (including parking fees) for a trip between Johannesburg and Pretoria is also reasonable in my books.
  • It’s Secure: There hasn’t been an instance that I felt unsafe on one of the Gautrain’s trains and the buses. Security is top notch. Rules are enforced.
Things About the Gautrain That Could Be Improved:
  • Trains at more frequent intervals during peak times: There has been a few instances when I arrive at either Marlboro or Midrand Gautrain stations during morning rush hour that I miss the train by a 30 seconds, forcing me to wait another 12-13 minutes for the next train. I have to walk 10-15 min when I get off the train at Hatfield Gautrain station to get to work. I’ve missed 2 or 3 trains, reaching them as the doors close on the platform, causing me to run a little late. Some of the trains have also been a bit crowded at times (I had to stand between Marlboro and Centurion stations one time because I couldn’t find a seat). Having trains at 8 minute intervals instead of 13 minutes could improve this.
  • More Bus Routes: Many folks commuting between Pretoria and Johannesburg don’t use the Gautrain simply because they can’t get to work if they were to get off at a station. What about someone who works in Roodepoort? There isn’t a Gautrain bus route operating in that area (to my knowledge). Gautrain bus routes should be expanded to more regions.
  • More Stations: The system should be expanded to other regions in Gauteng. A Gautrain station near Menlyn Park Shopping Centre and one close to Akasia / Pta North in Pretoria would be perfect. Stations in Fourways Β and Roodepoort should ease traffic congestion for both the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
  • Buses on Weekends and Public Holidays: There are currently no Gautrain buses on weekends and public holidays. This limits movement in all of the regions that the Gautrain operates in. Imagine being able to spend a Saturday at Monte Casino after taking the bus from Sandton to Fourways. Imagine being able to go on a shopping spree at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre, instead of being limited to the Hatfield region when travelling to Pretoria. It doesn’t have to be a full time bus service, one bus an hour or a bus every 2 hours should do the trick.
  • Trains after 8:30 PM: I do understand that the one of the main reasons the Gautrain is there is to reduce the amount of cars using the N1 and N14 highways on a daily basis to commute, but I really think stopping the service at 8:30 PM is ridiculous. Many Pretoria based companies hold functions and seminars at locations all around Johannesburg on weekday evenings (and vice versa). Implementing a service after 8:30 PM will make getting to these functions / seminars and back much easier. There doesn’t have to be a train every 20 minutes after 8:30 PM, 1 train an hour till midnight would be perfect. Having this service will also ensure that Jozi party goers hanging out in Pretoria (and vice versa) have a safe way to get home after a night out on the town.
  • Changes to the No Drinking / Eating Policy: Getting caught drinking or eating on a Gautrain bus or train can result in a R700 fine. I’m all for banning eating on the trains / buses, but commuters should at least be allowed to drink water if its in a sealed container. Some of the bus trips take between 20-30 minutes and even though it’s a comfy ride and it’s air conditioned, the South African sun still gets hot and people still get thirsty.
  • Improved Signage: The Gautrain stations could do with signage indicating when the next trains are leaving which should be visible when you walk into one of them. Currently there are none that I’m aware of and I’ve been to every single station in the system.
Well, this post isn’t a rant, its basically just me giving you my 2 cents about the Gautrain. Feel free to comment on this post if you agree or disagree with me about this. Feedback is appreciated and welcome. Feel free to share this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Sharing is caring after all.
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Henno Kruger
Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant and co-founder of SA Music Zone

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  • Colleen Foyn

    Stations should also look at getting more ticketing machines and look at maintenance during the evenings. Last week Monday, at the Centurion Station, I waited in a queue for 15 mins to buy my 5 day pass as one machine was off for maintenance and there are only 3 machines. This is not a once off occurance either. Every morning when I walk in to the station, there are queues snaking out of the main entrance.

    They should also look at having maintenance staff on standby. Last week on 2 different days, I saw trains with headlights not working, which is kind of important when driving underground in the dark. The escalator at Centurion station also wasn’t working last week. Yesterday the loudspeaker system kept showing the wrong station (I feel sorry for tourists on the train who got off at the wrong station). There is a premium being charged for tickets to use the service, so they can afford to ensure that things work.

    • @Colleen Thanks for letting my readers know about your experience πŸ™‚

  • We value your opinion, feedback and time in generating this post. Yes, we are going to drop the ball from time-to-time. Yes, there is room for improvement. There is improvement in areas like greater capacity during peak times, extended operation times, more integrated and broader spread of bus routes. And the list goes on.

    Do know, there is a dedicated team behind Gautrain whom are set in tailoring Gautrain to the needs of it’s people. We will get there, of this I am sure.

    • @TheGautrain Thanks for your quick response. I’m sure that this post could generate more comments from readers, so feel free to check back any time πŸ™‚

  • Clifford W. Hansen

    Thank you for the awesome post, it echos my thoughts exactly… Yes they might drop the ball once or twice, but as long as they communicate it to us we will continue to use the service…

    Consider this shared πŸ˜‰

  • Lizaan

    I’m one of the unfortunate few who travel from Pretoria to JHB (Denver) and cannot use the train, since they have no plans as of yet to include the Denver/Cleveland area in their shuttle routes from Park Station.

    I did ask them (via email) though whether or not they plan to create such a route and they only told me that if they have enough interest then they will consider it. (What I don’t understand though is why they never considered it in the first place as it is an industrial area and not exactly the best place to drive ones car). I’m sure that there would be many people here who would rather take the Gautrain to work than actually have to drive here.

    What I would really like to see on the website is a place where one can actually go and fill in a survey or something similar saying this is the area where I work and would a shuttle service from the nearest station be feasible for me yes or no and then use that information to rework the shuttle routes. I would personally like to see a lot more effort being put into the research for shuttle routes.

  • I have, as yet, not taken the Gautrain anywhere.
    This being mostly due to the fact that I work from home, and when I do need to be in Jhb, it’s kinda difficult to load a full sound system and equipment onto the train.

    The times that I would REALLY like to make use of the Gautrain, is late at night when I do find a day that I can just go party in Joburg. I do think that with time and increases popularity, the Gautrain will eventually run 24/7, and for this I can’t wait…

    • @BaasDeBeer You should really check it out sometime πŸ™‚

  • I have been using the Gautrain for more than a year now. While, enjoy using this convenient service – using it makes getting from Roodepoort to Centurion a lot easier, I think a lot of improvement has yet to be done. I agree that there should be buses over week-ends. Other problems that I have encountered is the train rides becoming increasingly bumpy. (Not sure if I am the only one who has noticed this.)At most times I am also overcharged for parking. For example instances that I should be paying R80, I am charged R160. Otherwise, I would consider myself a happy customer.

  • Thuto

    Thanx, i so wanted a website where i can also give my compliments & suggestions to the Gautrain Team. I stay in Midrand (Vorna Valley) and work in Centurion (Oak Avenue), for me it’s so convenient to get to Centurion in 9 mins from Midrand but the bad thing is that you wait in a Bus for 15 – 20 minutes and then i’ll be in the bus for 15 – 20 minutes until i get dropped at a bus stop, which I think is very unfair for us working in Oak Avenue, as there’s no bus stop besides the one just at the short left (Turning to 65 Oak) but for the rest of commuters who work at 55 Oak Avenue until at the end of Oak Ave it’s not cool at all. Other Bus services like Putco, Metro Bus do drive into Oak Ave but why does Gautrain buses not do it instead? They drop us off at Witch-Hazel Ave and to me it’s a bit unfair as they have more than 5 Bus Stops on Which Hazel Ave but only one on Oak Ave which is only at the Beggining of Oak and Oak Ave also has a lot of Companies like Which Hazel Ave. I’ve stopped using the Gautrain and i’m hoping they will relook their Bus routes and also accomodate us. Generally Gautrain is the best thing that ever happened to S.A mode of Transport and i always encourage friends and family to just take a ride to one of the stations and experience it, I must say i enjoyed myself with a few friends months ago when we decided to take the train from Centurion to Sandton just for dinner and we all had a good experience. Can’t wait for my Parents to visit from Northern Cape, so i can also take them somewhere with Gautrain…

  • Melanie

    I live in Centurion and work at Monte Casino. Why is there no Gautrain bus at least? What public transport can I use?

    • Hey Melanie – There is a Gautrain bus to Fourways. Just double check on their website. I am not familiar with the Gautrain bus routes in Jozi though.

  • Lizette Louw

    I need help planning my timing, from taking the bus, to getting to the station. Where can I get info on the time that specific bus routes take?

    • There are pamphlets available at the Gautrain station. You can also donwload the Bus Time Tables on the Gautrain Website πŸ™‚

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