On the right track for five long years

Gautrain at Sandton Station.jpg

Fifty million passenger trips, three hundred thousand train trips, one and a half million bus trips—all delivered with 98% punctuality and 94% availability.

That, in a nutshell, is the remarkable success story of Gautrain, one of the most ambitious projects of its kind ever undertaken in South Africa.

It’s little wonder that Ashton Bodrick, Executive Manager of the Gautrain Management Agency, is a proud man. He has every reason to be.

In a recent interview Bodrick said one of the key developments in this exciting project was the introduction of a detailed map to help tourists get around and to identify attractions, inter-linking modes of transport and other destinations along the route.

“Passengers can see how all the modes of transport and different routes link up,” he says. “This is important because, as a company, one of our key objectives is to integrate public transport. Tourists, especially international tourist, want to know where they will be able to get picked up from or that there will be another mode of transport to take them to their final destination”.

It’s hard to believe, but Gautrain is now five years old, having launched on 8 June 2010, when the first commercial Gautrain left Sandton Station to OR Tambo international Airport Station at exactly 5:24 am. Five years later this airport service is transporting an estimated 6 000 people on any given day.

Jack van der Merwe, CEO of the Gautrain Management Agency, says various objectives have been met on the Gautrain systems and since its operation started in June 2010, the overall system (train, busses and parking) has performed extremely well. During the five years, the service has delivered at an excellence of 99% train availability and 98% train punctuality. Other highlights achieved from June 2010 to April 2015 include fifty million passenger trips, three hundred thousand train trips and one and a half million bus trips. “I wish to express my gratitude to all Gautrain’s stakeholders and importantly also our customers because they are the ones who experience the Gautrain every day,” says van der Merwe. Gautrain has changed the traveling patterns for business and leisure travelers in Gauteng. Five years ago, the idea of travelling from the centre of Sandton to the OR Tambo international Airport in 15 minutes was just a dream. (The trip averages between 1hr to 1hr 30min by car, depending on the time of day). Today it’s a convenient reality with thousands of people making this journey every day.

On the airport service and general passenger service approximately 60 000 passenger trips and about 23 000 bus trips are generated on a typical week day. This growth in passenger demand can be ascribed to the Gautrain’s relentless focus on key customer satisfaction criteria including safety, reliability and affordability.

With a legacy of winning various local and international awards including the Global Air Rail Alliance (GARA) Service Excellence Award on customer experience in 2014 and the GARA Marketing Award in 2011; Gautrain has made fast, convenient, comfortable and efficient public transport a reality in Gauteng.

Bodrick, meanwhile, says that Gautrain is a significant “add-on” for tour operators because they can package tours that utilise Gautrain and its routes to capitalise on the positive impact that it has made on tourism. Gautrain, he says, is thus “a mobiliser of tourism”.

Lumka Dlomo, Destination Marketing Manager of Johannesburg Tourism, agrees. “The impact of Gautrain on tourism is vast and it’s been great for us to see the number of visitors to Johannesburg. We see families on Saturdays and Sundays taking time out, coming to a show or just seeing what the city has on offer. They can leave their cars at home, take the train and before they know it they’re in Sandton. For locals, the value is priceless”.

Laura Vercueil, Public Relations Manager at Johannesburg Tourism says that from a Johannesburg perspective, Gautrain is one of the city’s flagship products. “We are very proud of it and it’s a great selling point to market the destination, be it for leisure or business purposes, due to the way it impacts the destination in terms of traffic congestion and the way people now commute.

It’s changed the way people move around immensely, not only for the locals but also visitors to the destination, too. Vercueil went on to say “It’s like everyone always says, countries with strong economies are those that have a very strong tourism industry, and it grows from a domestic base - that is where the majority of your tourists come from anyway, so from those points of view I do think it is an invaluable asset to what is a fabulous destination.”

Vercueil says that part of their organisation’s mandate is to ensure that tourism visitors are spread throughout the city. ”You don’t just want people going to Sandton and nowhere else”. She says that Gautrain has been of significant value in this regard, too. “It takes tourists from the east of the city right down to central town, which is now also enjoying a younger generation and becoming a sort of trendy, arts and lifestyle precinct. A lot of people now spend their time there.”

Bodrick says “Gautrain has also begun to alleviate the fear of security in our province in terms of public transport. We have seen an enormous change in the attitude of domestic and international travellers,” he says. “We are actually the backbone to taking the opportunity to change perceptions and the way people move and experience the region.”

Since its inception, the Gautrain has changed the lives of many people in Gauteng through job creation and skills development, to a visible impact on property development along its route, spatial development and economic growth. The Project is changing the perception of public transport in South Africa by providing a safe, reliable, affordable and convenient public transport system in the corridor between Johannesburg and Tshwane and between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport.

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