Travel Review: Gautrain

With the recent Eco Mobility Month ending in October 2015, the focus in Gauteng is for more of the citizens to start using public transport to ease the traffic congestion on the roads.

I know it's November and I'm also a bit late on the up take, 5 years in fact, but I decided to try the whole Gautrain experience. Yes it was my first time, and yes I have been living in Gauteng all this time. I just never found the need to use it, I am the type of person that feels lost without my car, or even just the car keys in my pocket.

Whenever making a decision there always needs to be a driving force to make that decision. My driving force to try the Gautrain was that it seemed logical at the time. I had meetings in Sandton the whole week and didn't need my car, so now would be an opportune time to test the public transport system in my city.

Like I said before I wanted to experience the WHOLE experience. So Monday on my way home I decided to stop at the station in Midrand to get the famous Gold Card pictured below.


At R14 for the card I was hoping that it was actually gold plated but my luck it look liked an ordinary Clicks Club Card. Ok, so I guess the Clicks Club Card is not a RFID tag, so I shouldn't really complain. As I was new with the whole system, I asked the teller who sold me the card to load some money on it for me as well, so I was all set for Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning I was all excited and rushed to the bus stop (which is literally 500m from our home). I got to the bus stop just after 7a.m and there were already two gentleman waiting for the bus to arrive. The one was sitting with his earphones in his ears and looked like a regular traveller, the other I was not so sure, he was standing up and looked a bit nervous like it was also his first time using the GauBus. I didn't want to disturb the regular traveller so I asked the gentleman standing where he was going. Fortunately he was also going to Sandton.... but my suspicions were correct it was also his first time. Just then the gentleman who we thought was listening to music, was actually listening to us, interjected and said he is going to Rosebank and he will show us what we must do, so we made sure we stayed close to him the whole way.

Just then the bus arrived and we all boarded first tagging in with our Gold Cards at the entrance of the bus, already deducting R20 from our cards. Since I was not a regular user of public transport I was actually quite surprised at the comfort of the seats and the overall cleanliness of the bus. Since we were the second stop that the bus had made for the morning, the bus was relatively empty. This didn't last long, and as we made each stop, the bus started to fill up, by the time we got to the 6th stop, the bus was full and the next stop we had to drive right past leaving the commuters to wait for the next bus. 

The route was very well thought of as the bus for the most part is against the traffic and when they are in traffic are still moving as the other cars on the road allow them to pass. Just after 7:30a.m we were at the Midrand Station. Already you feel like you in a first world country going to the subway or the underground tube. The tagging at the access point before the platform just adds that extra world class experience.

We didn't wait long, probably about 4 minutes and the train was at the platform. Everyone pushed to get in, and because it was my first time I didn't know the procedure and almost had the doors closing on me. The train was unexpectedly full and everyone that had just boarded at Midrand had to stand, most of us quite close to the doors. Fortunately it was not for long because in 6 minutes we were in Marlboro and some departed and in another 6 minutes we were at the Sandton Station where I departed. My fellow traveller gave me a nod to indicate that it was my stop and I disembarked from the train.

I was highly impressed so far, just 12 minutes from Midrand to Sandton. Little did I know though that the next few minutes was like the amazing race. Apparently there is a "fast-lane" on the escalator leading out of the station to Rivonia Road. While some (standing on the left hand side of the escalator) are relaxing and enjoying the escalator while it takes them up to their destination, others on the right hand side (which is where I was) are running up the escalator. Believe me, 6 escalators becomes quite tiring, especially if you are not in top form physically like myself. Anyway it was fun nonetheless, and I made it to my bus in time before it left.

After about the 4th escalator though I tagged out of the station and R16 was deducted, which was very reasonable I thoughts I'm sure it would cost me much more if I had to drive to Sandton in peak hour traffic. The bus now charged me R7 as I had used the train within an hour so I received a reduced rate. There are additional discounts if you travel at different times which I didn't experience as I went at the same time everyday.

All in all my trip to the office cost me R43 (excluding the card). It took slightly longer than I expected but was mainly because I had to board two buses in addition to the train ride. I'm very fortunate though that the bus picked me up outside my home and dropped me right outside the office, so the additional time didn't really matter. I definitely think it was worth it and continued for the rest of week to and from the office.

I feel that it's a great mode of transport and more people in Johannesburg should use to decrease the traffic problems. The problem is the mindset of drivers, and the independence that Jo'burgers love is the only obstacle at the moment. The toll roads definitely didn't deter the drivers and neither does JMPD. I think the only way to encourage the use of public transport especially the Gautrain is to maybe offer first time users a free ride, that way they can experience it like I did and see the true value of the service that the Gautrain offers. There are many advantages to using the Gautrain, besides just the e-Tolls and speed cameras. I was more relaxed and refreshed when I got to the office, I know my car was safely parked at home (with no fear of a possible hi-jacking or an accident), and most importantly I didn't contribute to the pollution in the air, so it really is Eco-Mobility.

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