It was discussed on Talk Radio the other day, the possibility of using Gautrain as an alternative to paying E-tolls in the car.
I would like to categorically disabuse anyone of the notion that the Gautrain is a viable alternative, under most circumstances.
I live in Centurion and work in Boksburg. My commute is 55km each way, comprising 1km of suburban roads in Centurion, 5km of suburban roads in Boksburg, and 49km of freeways in between.
As many will know, the R21 is a magnificent motorway, free-flowing 95% of the time, and is in no way comparable to the drudgery of the crawl up and down the N1 through Midrand.
The closest Gautrain station to my place of work is Rhodesfield. There is no bus service from Gautrain to my place of work, not even close. Thus I would have to leave my car (or bike) overnight at Rhodesfield.
The Centurion Gautrain station is 4km from my home, with a bus stop 600m from home. A 600m walk does not faze me in the least.
Commuting - Car, with E-Tag
A complete home-work-home journey will cost R26.58. Due to the free-flowing nature of the route, it takes a regular 40 minutes either way.
Commuting - Motorcycle, with E-Tag
The same return journey on the bike will cost R15.95. Scything through the traffic reduces the journey time to 32-35 minutes each way.
Rhodesfield - Centurion costs R72 per day, on a commuter pass. Add to that R6 per bus ride (2) and R15 to park. Total daily cost, R99. Almost four times as expensive as the car, six times more than the motorcycle.
Is Gautrain Really Quicker?
I had occasion recently to use the Gautrain. I know that the change at Marlboro, between the west- and north-bound lines, is dependent on getting a wriggle on, up the stairs, over the lines, and onto the new platform.
I also know that it is possible to catch the bus in Centurion, a few minutes after arriving on the train.
In spite of this advanced knowledge, it still took me 1h10m from Rhodesfield to home, due to the wait for the intial train. Add another 15 minutes for the drive from work to the station. For all intents and purposes, that is twice as much time as I would spend in the car.
If however, you are ordinarily stuck in abominable traffic on the N1, and your journey is a simple one, for example from Centurion to Sandton, with no line changes, the train may certainly be faster.
But you can work on the train!
The journey from Rhodesfield to Marlboro is a mere 7 minutes. Another 16 minutes to Centurion. Centurion to Sandton direct is 20 minutes. You tell me who is going to crack open the laptop to do little wodges of work in such tiny chunks?
But all is not lost...
If it looks like I've ripped the guts out of the Gautrain, I do apologise. Many thousands of commuters clearly find that it does work, as evidenced by full parking lots at all stations, full carriages at peak times, and the introduction of eight-car trains.
I am a huge fan of the Gautrain system, and applaud the decision to extend it further. My hope is that in time it becomes all-encompassing, from Roodepoort / Randburg in the west, through Soweto and Alberton in the south, to the East Rand.
At this point in time though, the car remains supreme!
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