Gautrain usage spikes as e-tolls take effect

2013-12-04 10:09

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Instead of covering their number plates with tablecloths to boycott the introduction of e-tolling, some Gauteng motorists have opted to use the Gautrain to travel between Pretoria and Joburg.

The Gautrain Management Agency said it experienced an increase of 7.5% in the use of the Gautrain on the first day of the implementation of the controversial e-tolls, indicating that many disgruntled motorists have opted not to buy e-tags but to use other modes of transport to get to work.

City Press visited the Pretoria Gautrain station yesterday afternoon and spoke to commuters, some of whom said they were against the introduction of tolling for some Gauteng freeways but would not break the law or answer the call by organisations, including the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance and union federation Cosatu, who have urged motorists to boycott e-tolling by not purchasing e-tags.

While some started using the train months ago, others went as far as borrowing Gautrain cards from relatives yesterday to test whether it was a convenient mode of transport.

Terry Biggs, an electronics expert who lives in Pretoria East, said he would be happy to use the Gautrain in future after borrowing his fiancée’s Gautrain card to test the bus routes around the Sandton area.

Biggs previously drove from Pretoria to Joburg five days a week.

“I work in Sandton and it will cost just over R2 000 a month as a regular [Gautrain] user. That’s not bad considering I spend more on petrol. But I still have to calculate how much I will spend on parking,” said Biggs, adding that he did not want to buy an e-tag because he hoped the toll tariffs would be decreased.

“I don’t want to break the law, that’s not me, but I want to travel without inconvenience so Gautrain has my support,” he said.

Another Gautrain commuter, Charmaine Zama, said many of his friends and relatives began using the Gautrain months ago.

“When you do the calculations whether on your pocket or the time spent in traffic, the Gautrain does present a better option. I will not be buying an e-tag and if need be I will use alternative routes when visiting friends,” she said.

Social networks were awash with photographs of vehicles driving under e-toll gantries with tablecloths illegally shielding licence plates to evade being detected as the controversial electronic tolling began yesterday. But it was unclear whether the photographs were authentic.

Errol Braithwaite, technical executive for the Gautrain Bombela Consortium, said the increase in the number of commuters was directly attributable to the e-tolls.

“Motorists are coming to have a look-see and find out if it works for them and if it’s convenient. We believe that we can accommodate more commuters who choose to use the Gautrain and we will monitor the numbers very carefully,” said Braithwaite.

On a typical Tuesday, there was an average of 48 675 Gautrain commuters and 18 441 bus commuters.

But yesterday, 52 350 Gautrain commuters travelled between Pretoria and Joburg, more than 4 000 new commuters compared with any other Tuesday, and 20 800 Gautrain bus commuters – 13% more than usual.

Braithwaite said they have plans in place to accommodate new commuters opting to use the train rather than the road.

“We’ve got some plans in place, including inserting an additional train in the morning peak period, which will increase capacity and we’re looking at adjusting the timetable for trains to run more frequently,” said Braithwaite.

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