Commuters give Gautrain thumbs up

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Johannesburg - Hundreds of Johannesburg residents, who boarded the Gautrain on Tuesday, have given the high speed train the thumbs up.

Passengers, who were among the first to board the train which began operations on Tuesday told BuaNews they were elated. "I haven't been on a train since I was 17-years-old and all I can say is that the train is out of this world - it shows that the country has come a long way since 1994," said Samatha Cone, 52.

She said the train arrived and departed on time, and that there were many "helpful, friendly " ushers and security guards everywhere who directed passengers to where they needed to be.

The train began operations between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport since 5:30am on Tuesday morning and about 11 000 passengers are believed to have taken their first ride.

Thomas Malikeke, who works at the OR International Airport, said "It's better than sitting in traffic on the highway. At least you know you won't be late."

Some passengers did not even realise they were travelling at 160 kilometres an hour.

"Wow! It was absolutely amazing!" said a palpably excited Amanda Nykiza, while another passenger commented that it "was stunning inside."

Bombela CEO Jerome Govender described the first day of operations as "fantastic". He said he was "delighted and relieved" that things were running smoothly.

Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane also got on board and for her it was "an emotional experience."

The premier was among the first passengers to board the express train.

Mokonyane was joined by Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele, Gauteng transport MEC Bheki Nkosi and Gautrain project CEO Jack van der Merwe.

Mokonyane urged people using the train to celebrate its opening, but cautioned against expectations of perfection on day one. "We must just say it is here, we can feel it, we can touch it, we are in it," Mokonyane said.

However, there were some minor problems, like the ticket vending machines at various stations which experienced problems, working only intermittently.

"We want to apologise to any passenger we inconvenienced when we had these intermittent problems. We must allow the system to prime over the next week," said Govender.