Saturday, 12 June 2010

Teething Gautrain is still Cool

I have been on the newly launch Gautrain a number of times, my first trip being on 13 March 2010, I thought I would treat the family on a trip from Sandton to Rhodesfield and back. And I was not the only family who decided to ride the Gautrain today.

The Sandton ticket area of the Gautrain was packed to the rafters. I joined a queue to purchase our gold cards (tickets) while Carol who is disabled and cannot stand for long periods tried to find somewhere to sit. Eventually she had to ask one of the Gautrain personnel for a chair and was brought a white plastic patio chair. (Gautrain Please Note)

After about 45 minutes of standing in the queue Matthew wanted the toilet but was told that the toilets were on the other side of the barrier and needed a gold card to get in. Luckily it wasn't long after that, I made it to the front of the queue. I will pause here to ask Gautrain why do I have to purchase my three gold cards separately and not as one purchase? This would have shortened my time at the purchase point and that of the other families.

The escalators at Sandton were flying at a great speed which was a problem for Carol to get on but finally we arrived at the platform and did not have to wait very long for a train to arrive. Families with grannies and children were all excited and couldn't wait to board. Matthew managed to find seats for us but a number of people had to be sasified with standing room only. The journey itself was pleasant with our family discussing the differences between the Gautrain, Thalys and the TGV while we flew along the tracks. The main difference that we came up with was the width. The Gautrain felt much smaller and cramped than the European trains that we were used to.

Arriving at Rhodesfield in record time we disembarked and made our way off the platform to the concourse below on an escalator that was thankfully much slower. At the bottom we found many people also trying to purchase gold cards to spend a day in Sandton. The queues looked even longer than in Sandton that we decided not leave the concourse but turn around and head back to Sandton. After another short wait we were flying back.

Trying to leave Sandton Station we encountered our final hurdle. The gates wouldn't let us out because we had inefficient funds on our cards. What? We paid for a round trip to Rhodesfield and back at R52 (R21 one way plus R10 for the card). So we joined another queue of lots of frustrated families with the same problem. Here we expected to standing for an hour or more. Carol had to find a spot on the floor as there was no chairs this side. What had happened was that we should have gone out of the gates at Rhodesfield and back in but no one told us this so we were charged R100 as if we went to the airport. Majority of the commuters did just what we did and simply got off at Rhodesfield, went down to the concourse, went back up on the other side and waited for the train back. Because there was so many of us waiting in a queue to get this problem rectified, they simply let us out. A quick fix to what would have been another long wait.

This was to be a wonderful experience for the family but I don't think Gautrain was ready for hordes of people seeking their first ride on what had become their dream. But the dream is still alive because this is our train and we are proud of her, teething problems and all. As Matthew's T-shirt reads “Belgium is cool, I'm cool”, we say that the Gautrain is even cooler.

1 comment:

Jerome West said...

A tsunami of about 40,000 passengers just this weekend alone. Report from Gautrain itself

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