Gautrain gets a hero's welcome in Midrand

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Johannesburg - The first completed Gautrain train set was unveiled and given a test drive at the Gautrain depot in Midrand on Tuesday, its operational home.

The milestone occasion was attended by 150 invited guests and the media, including Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile, who were able to for the first time view the Gautrain's world class features. Guests were taken on a ride on the three-kilometre test drive.

Branded in the Gautrain's distinctive golden colours with stripes going down the side, the car's interior boats blue seats and carpeting and air-conditioned cabins with priority seats for people with disabilities.

The premier described the event as a historic moment and the beginning of a radical transformation of the public transport in the province.

"Our country's public transport will never be the same. Our golden train is now finally where she belongs. And although Gautrain's physical home is in Gauteng, her real home is in the hearts and minds of all South Africans," he said.

Mr Mashatile said the Gautrain was the birth of a new legacy in public transport. "Our children and grandchildren will be born into a world where the Gautrain is their public transport mode of choice; they will find it hard to believe that there was any life at all before the arrival of Gautrain.

"Our hearts are overflowing with pride as we celebrate our nation's ability to build a train service using the best technology the world has on offer today," he said.

The assembly of the Gautrain's cars started at the Bombardier Transportation's Derby assembly plant in the United Kingdom in 2007. Less than a year later, the first completed four-car train set was handed over to Gautrain's political committee, led by former Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa in Derby last year.

Five months later, the first shipments of two completed rail cars arrived at Durban harbour on 1 December 2008 and were transported to the Gautrain depot on low-bed road trucks.

The Gautrain rail fleet will comprise of 96 Electrostar-type rail cars that will be operated initially in four-car train sets.

Gauteng MEC for Public Transport, Roads and Works, Ignatius Jacobs described his test drive of the Gautrain as comfortable. "This is going to change the image of public transport in the province, if not the country," he told BuaNews.

MEC for Local Government Qedani Mahlangu said: "Unlike anything ever experienced before, the Gautrain will allow people to arrive on time from every journey while traveling in a safe and clean environment."

Upon delivery to the Gautrain depot each train-set is to be subjected to a long and rigorous testing and commissioning process. This entails progressively more onerous tests on all systems and sub-systems from brakes and power, to air-conditioning and communications.

In total each train-set will complete approximately 3000km on the test-track before being certified for operations.