The apex of Afro Tech

Travel into a world of promise and progress with Gautrain

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Just five years ago you could not travel from the heart of Sandton to the OR Tambo International Airport in just 15 minutes, or from Pretoria to the centre of Johannesburg in under 36 minutes. Today thousands of commuters make these journeys everyday – at any time of the day. Gautrain has made fast and efficient public transport a reality in Gauteng.

It is much more than a transport system. For South Africans all over the country, the Gautrain represents the pride of a nation and the dawning of a new age in the country’s public transport offering – a legacy where today’s commuters make the use of public transport as a lifestyle choice.

The Gautrain combines African flair with world class technology, termed Afro Tech to describe this meeting of international standards and quintessential African style. On a functional level, the Gautrain works to provide a public transport system that is safe, efficient, convenient and reliable, while reducing conventional greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. South Africans have also forged a very real emotional connection with the system. It represents not only a symbol of national pride, but also freedom, safety and security for South Africans, not to mention providing them with the opportunity to do their bit to reduce their individual carbon footprints.

With 10 stations on a route that runs to each of the four compass points, and supported by nearly 30 bus routes, taking the Gautrain has become a way of life for commuters in an incredibly short space of time. Clockwork schedules and consistent trip durations make it easy for travellers to plan their schedules and the cashless, card-based payment system that makes travelling safe and efficient.

Each of the 10 stations has its own unique personality – though something they all share is helpful staff, visible security and excellent directional signage. Hatfield Station opens into the student and embassy district of the capital and on weekends is crammed with sports fans in team colours, making their way to nearby Loftus Versveld Stadium.

Pretoria Station is surrounded by the bustle of the inner city, with loads of fast food and shopping options right outside the door. Centurion Station is the gateway to scores of office parks and businesses. Midrand Station gives commuters access to the midpoint between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as the nearby Gallagher Estate Convention Centre.

For ease of access to the highway, it’s hard to beat the Marlboro Station, adjacent to Alexandra with its rows of neat RDP houses. It’s at Marlboro that passengers travelling to and from O. R. Tambo International Airport in the East can switch to the North/South line for access to Johannesburg or Pretoria. Along the way, the Gautrain stops at Rhodesfield Station. Not many airport passengers pay this station any heed, but for thousands of everyday passengers, this is their main node of connection to the Gautrain system from the East Rand. Here, as at Pretoria, Hatfield and Park Stations, the line intersects with the Metrorail system, giving commuters easy access for onward journeys.

Arriving at Sandton Station from Marlboro really gives you a feeling for the scope of the Gautrain project. The Gautrain first dips underground on the North/South route, just past Marlboro and heads downwards to Sandton and underneath Africa’s richest square mile. Whether you take the lift or the series of escalators to the surface in Sandton, you can’t help but be struck by what a major feat of engineering the Gautrain really is. Massive blue stanchions support the concrete walls as the escalators zig-zag dizzyingly upwards to ground level. All that Sandton offers is a few moments’ walk away – the shopping temptations of Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square, a plethora of hotels and head offices of multimillion-rand corporates and law firms surround the station complex. Rosebank Station is more laid-back, with the stylishly revamped Rosebank Mall and The Zone a short escalator ride away. The final stop is at Park Station in the beating heart of the Johannesburg CBD. With connections to Metrorail and the Rea Vaya bus system – as well as its own dedicated Gautrain bus network – Park Station offers commuters almost endless connection opportunities to work and play opportunities in Jozi. Arts, culture, commerce, shopping, living and working – the endless opportunities of Johannesburg are laid out before you as you step out of the station.

The Gautrain is a slick, speedy, efficient blue and gold-liveried advertisement for the progress and promise of Gauteng – and South Africa as a whole. Its commitment to serving the people of Gauteng is evident in the growth the Gautrain has experienced with general passenger ridership increasing since its launch. The commuter rail’s proudest moment in the past year was the fact that the airport service competed with the best international services to win the Global Air Rail Alliance Award for Customer Service Excellence. This award seeks to recognise the best services for delivering an enjoyable and stress-free journey between air and rail travel.

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This edition

Issue 72