First Class Train In A Third World Country

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
One of the few things that I really loved when I visited Europe last December was the transport system. And although the London Underground suffered some delays because of the snow while I was there, I was still in awe that it functioned seamlessly since 1863 (That old eh?). The German and French Metros were also quite good. And the Amsterdam tram and the Roman buses were not all that bad as well.

So living in South Africa, I've always had this view that the public transport system here was most definitely limited and relatively fickle. We've had our taxis, which are also known as death traps (can't blame me if I agree to this term, I was almost killed by one a few years ago) and our buses and our trains. But for most South Africans on the road, getting anywhere and everywhere required your own mode of transportation, if you can afford it.

Then comes the Gautrain - a world class transportation system that offers services between some cities in Gauteng and to the airport.

My first time experience with the Gautrain finally happened last week when I went and visited my dietitian who was situated in Pretoria, 80km from where I stayed. I quickly researched the website to check if the Gautrain station was near enough where my dietitian's offices were and realised that they were actually offering bus services to the place so I decided to brave it.

Hubby and I arrived at the Marlboro Station in Linbro Park 90 minutes prior to my doctor's appointment. The staff at the station were quite friendly and accommodating when it comes to first-time commuters. They were knowledgeable and helpful. We were directed on how to obtain our Gold Cards. The Gold Cards were quite important as they held our cash for payment of the train and bus fares, as well as payment for parking. No cash changes hands at any of the trains or buses. You can only load at the station counter. Hmmm, I thought, much like the London Oyster Card.

Moving on....we were then showed to the platform we required to get to our destination, Hatfield (the last stop). It was platform A. The platform was heavily guarded.

A lot of people change trains at Marlboro Station because it was one of the stations that catered for people going to the airport.

Our train to Hatfield arrived at exactly 10:50am as recorded on the Gautrain timetable. Right on time. And according to the timetable, we would be in Hatfield in 30 minutes time.

The Gautrain ride was enjoyable. There was an occasional shake and grinding sound (not sure if things were starting to rust or what) but for the most part, it was awesome. The train itself was guarded as well, clean, and I believe they also had wi-fi connections onboard although I, myself did not try this. I was too excited with the scenery.

30 minutes later we arrived at the Hatfield Station. Got out and asked for directions on where to get a Gautrain bus to take us to my doctor's offices. Just outside there were buses lined up. They were numbered and each bus serviced a different route. First, you'll need to figure out which bus will take you where you need to go.

My doctor's offices were not too far, about 3km away from the Station. We asked some drivers on which bus to take. Funnily, they could not give us a definite answer. The first bus that we wanted to take would have taken us to the street that we needed to go to, but it was after making 12 other stops beforehand. I thought it would have made me very late for my appointment then.

We took a second bus instead. However, we miscalculated the Stop and when we got off, we realised that the street we wanted to enter was actually closed off from that side and so we had to walk all the way around, which made me late for my appointment anyway.

Further, the buses had a set time of departure but of course, these times were not published on the website. We got to Hatfield on time at 11:20am but the buses were only departing (oddly at the same time) at 11:48am.

The bus ride back to the station was faultless. The Gautrain bus stops were clearly marked on the street. We got to the Hatfield Station at about 2pm and waited for a further 20 minutes for the next train to take us back to Marlboro Station. I slept on the train ride back.

For more information, visit The Gautrain website.

A highly recommended mode of transportation. Now to suggest they take it all the way to the South of Johannesburg right outside my house. That would be great, thank you.

1 caring thoughts:

  1. Chris said...:

    wow, that does seem like a great service for the people in South Africa!