Smooth test ride on Gautrain

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Johannesburg - For some, a trip from Sandton to the OR Tambo International Airport in a cool ten minutes might seem impossible to imagine.

It's not really - that is if you are travelling on the Gautrain.

A few privileged passengers got a whiff of what is expected when the Gautrain starts officially operating on Monday. They got to take a practice run on Wednesday and for those who timed the trip - it beat their expectations, coming in five minutes earlier than the anticipated 15 minutes the trip was billed to take.

Passengers boarded the train at the Marlboro station in Alexander then departed to the Sandton station where the testing started.

The train silently moved forward, no surge or jolt, reaching a speed of 160km/h with ease.

People on the road below the elevated track stopped to take pictures with their cellphones. People inside the coach looked around in wonder.

Inside, the coach looks startling in blue and gold - the tall-backed seating is a rich royal blue, with a blue and gold spotted carpet, with two stripes running up, and the gold Gautrain logo emblazoned on it.

Hundreds of CCTV security cameras on the train and at the stations ensure the safety of commuters is not taken lightly. There will also be a 24-hour security presence at all the stations, train and parking areas.

Stations have wheelchair access, toilets, lifts, fare gates, ticket offices and ticket vending machines.

Along the way, the train stopped at Marlboro and Rhondesfield before reaching its destination.

The Gautrain is set to carry its first passengers from OR Tambo International Airport to Sandton on Monday, three days before the World Cup kick-off.

Barbara Jensen, spokeswoman for the Gauteng province on the Gautrain, said four stations - OR Tambo, Rhodesfield in Kempton Park, Marlboro and Sandton - would be fully operational by Saturday, when the inauguration takes place.

Although Sandton will be fully operational, construction will still be in progress for the next few months on the second phase, from Sandton to Park station in central Joburg.

The fare will range from R16, but trips from the airport to Sandton are expected to be about R100 to R120, one way.

From Sandton there will be feeder buses to stadiums and other locations. Passengers will disembark from the train underneath Sandton City.

The station and parking are 15 storeys underground. People will be able to buy tickets at an automated ticketing system at the airport. The routes to Pretoria and Johannesburg are expected to open in 2011.