Gautrain hits speed bump

2010-06-13 22:15

Cape town - South Africa's new high-speed rail link buckled on Sunday under high demand as visitors flocked to see the new service unveiled for the World Cup.

Long queues backed up for the train service which had 20 000 to 25 000 passengers, less than a week after the $3bn project was opened.

"We were just overwhelmed by the huge number of people coming to visit us. It did put a massive strain on the facilities, which took a little bit of time to recover," said Errol Braithwaite of the operator Bombela.

The jam came as Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele urged football fans to get to games using public transport, into which the government had ploughed R40bn  ahead of last Friday's kick-off.

"The use of public transport during this time will significantly reduce congestion on the roads," he said, pointing to overhauled systems which include bus and train networks.

"Too many fans are driving in private vehicles and the use of public transport will assist a great deal."

The number of Gautrain trains was upped on Sunday but led to slower speeds due to an automatic control system to even out spacing between the trains, said Braithwaite.

"Within the space of half an hour, we had the trains running again at normal speed," he said.

The Gautrain, Africa's first high-speed railway, opened its first link between the upmarket Sandton area and the OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg last Tuesday.

The train was used by 1 000 commuters in the first hour on its opening day and is seen as a major move to free up Johannesburg's gridlocked roads.