Commuters fume as Gautrain delays cost productivity

Commuters are fuming over Gautrain delays. (Photo: File, Netwerk24)
Commuters are fuming over Gautrain delays. (Photo: File, Netwerk24)

Frustrated Gautrain commuters have complained that frequent delays on the routes are causing a loss in productivity, missed meetings and longer working hours.

Outraged travelers took to social media on Monday morning after the train service between Hatfield and Park Stations was disrupted, resulting in delays of approximately 45 minutes.

Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said this was due to cable theft. The high-speed train has been battling with this issue since 2011.

Commuters complain that the delays are frequent, and they are unable to plan ahead for their working days.

"Every single week there [have] been a number of delays and there’s been no explanation for the delays. We’re basically left to figure it out for ourselves, we don’t know how long the delays will take and you’re never given an indication of what kind of alternative arrangements you should make because you’re already on the train when the delays do happen," a rail user who wished to remain anonymous told Fin24.

"The amount of money that’s paid for the ticket, they should be maintaining the lines properly and they should be giving more value for money than they currently are," another traveler commented.

An office worker in Pretoria living in Johannesburg complained to Fin24 she was forced to work on the train on Monday in order to meet a deadline.

"The train is packed, it’s impossible to open your laptop while the train chugs along."

She said she had been stuck on the train for two hours on Monday with the Gautrain only communicating with commuters towards the end of the trip about the reasons for the delays.

Nayager, in an emailed response to Fin24, said that passengers who subscribe to receive SMS alerts would have received an SMS informing them of the delay, and people should register by sending an SMS with the word 'Alert' to 44181 at a once-off cost of R1. 

"Announcements have also been made at the different stations and, as you may have seen, social media was also used to keep passengers updated."

Gautrain management are cagey about the methods they are using to combat cable theft, citing security concerns.

"We do have a number of measures in place to help curb cable theft. Cable theft adversely affects our operation and the result is that hundreds of passengers experience extended journey times.

"We acknowledge that delays are an inconvenience and strive to operate the service in accordance with the schedule," said Nayager.

Gauteng is battling to contain cable theft and Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga estimates that the three metros, Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, are losing about R500m a year, or more than R1m a day due to loss of business and electricity outages.

It appears the new law to criminalise copper cable theft has had limited impact. The Criminal Matters Amendment Act came into effect in May 2016 with harsher sentencing and bail conditions for people who damage public and private infrastructure such as transport, power and water.

Cable theft was previously seen as malicious damage to property with minor penalties attached.

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