All aboard the train …

2013-11-07 00:00

THE long-awaited business express rail service that will travel between Pietermaritzburg and Durban will finally take to the tracks in February next year.

Business people, politicians and civil servants have been promised free wi-fi, newspapers and facilities to charge laptops and other devices.

The two trains will each have a boardroom that can cater for 24 people and a coach with a bar where people can enjoy light meals as they make their way between the two cities.

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) chief executive officer Saki Zamxaka said two business express trains would start operating next year.

Prasa and the eThekwini Municipality made the announcement as they briefed the KwaZulu-Natal cabinet on the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network.

Zamxaka said the business express service had been delayed because of delays in the infrastructure to support the stations.

“Some of the stations were not operational for some time and for safety reasons we needed to improve platforms,” Zamxaka said.

He explained that commuters would be able to buy weekly or monthly tickets to take a comfortable ride on the express train.

“You can drive your car to a train station and take a train and come back,” Zamxaka said.

He said one of the trains was already refurbished and another was close to completion.

Dumi Dube, regional manager for Metrorail KZN, said the facilities would be better than their other business trains currently being used in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

He said each train will carry 380 passengers, with 38 executive class seats and the rest business class.

The trains would depart simultaneously from Durban and Pietermaritzburg during the morning peak hour and return during the afternoon.

The trains would take one hour and 40 minutes to reach their destination compared to the average time of 45 minutes it would take to cover the distance by car.

Dube said they were considering serving meals to seated passengers similar to the service offered to passengers on a commercial business flight.

Business lounges in Pietermaritzburg, Durban and at Rossburgh are under construction.

The two trains, each with 11 coaches, were refurbished in Durban and contain leather seats that had been imported, he said.

Once at their respective stations, the passengers could make use of a shuttle service to get to the CBD.

The cost of a ticket has not been finalised.

If there was enough demand, the trains could make more than one trip, Dube said.

The trains would be available to hire during the day for corporate functions.

It was previously reported that the express train, boasting a different feel and look from ordinary trains, will cater mainly for business people and government employees commuting between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

In his state of the province address earlier this year, former Premier Zweli Mkhize had said Prasa had committed to building three more trains if the first service proved to be a resounding success.

The introduction of the train was first announced in 2010 while Sbu Ndebele was Transport minister.

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