It is difficult to establish if the newly opened Gautrain route between Hatfield station, in Pretoria, and Rosebank station, in Johannesburg, is alleviating traffic congestion in these cities, but feedback has been positive, reports the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA).
GMA CEO Jack van der Merwe explains that factors such as the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), the construction work being done on the route between Rosebank and Park stations, and the expected GFIP toll tariffs, impact on the GMA’s ability to establish whether the Gautrain is alleviating traffic congestion.
“Owing to the GFIP, there have been some lane restrictions on roads in Pretoria and Johannesburg, which has increased traffic congestion. Park station is not open yet, so commuters wanting to use that route are still travelling by car, while others might be using their own transport until the toll tariffs kick in,” he says.
However, feedback from commuters has been positive and 32 000 people are using the various Gautrain routes daily. The GMA was expecting only 28 000 commuters to use the Gautrain during the ramp-up period. Over one-third of these commuters also use the Gautrain bus service.
Van der Merwe notes that, once more people choose to change their lifestyles and start using the Gautrain every day, the traffic congestion will definitely decrease.
“It is actually quite challenging to convince people to change their lifestyles and their daily routines, but our marketing strategy is working well and the Gautrain offers many benefits, such as a stress-free trip to work, to mention just one,” he adds.
Overall, challenges facing the Gautrain can be divided into two groups, namely construction challenges and operational challenges. The construction challenges comprise all the advanced engineering processes, such as the tunnelling and the construction of viaducts.
“One such engineering challenge, which emerged recently, was the discovery of water in the underground tunnel linking Rosebank station to Park station,” says Van der Merwe.
He adds that international and local mining experts have been consulted and engineers are carrying out remedial work to solve the issue and possibly have the route operational by the end of the year.
Further, operational challenges, such as the availability and punctuality of trains, arise occasionally.
“The Gautrain operations were disrupted three times recently by cable theft but, since the last incident in August, operations have been running smoothly, with 97% of trains arriving on time at various stations,” he says.
He adds the GMA has plans in place to prevent future cable theft.
“We are also having discussions with the police on ways to not only stop the thieves from stealing the cables, but also to prosecute them for their crimes,” he explains.
Meanwhile, the Gautrain buses have been used to transport commuters from various Gautrain stations directly to large events. Commuters were transported to the Waterkoof Airshow, in Centurion, and the Sexpo exhibition, in Midrand.
“The Gautrain buses do not operate over weekends, so we have decided to start using them to transport commuters to large events near the Gautrain stations. This will encourage more people to use the Gautrain for leisure purposes as well,” says Van der Merwe.
He notes that 3 300 commuters were transported to the events in Centurion and Midrand over the last weekend of September.