Gautrainer: if you wrap yourself like a lollypop…

2014-07-23 11:33

If you wrap yourself like a lollipop, chances are somebody is going to lick you.  Then you should not act surprised, or feel used and all wet and sticky – you created the expectation. This is exactly what happened with the Gautrain; it was wrapped and packaged nicely, and now the Guatrainers are unwrapping it.

So here is my take on this – the train is a convenience, not a cost saver necessarily. I have the right to choose the train as a mode of transport, and as a paying customer have the right to highlight the area’s they can improve on, and I can continue insisting on better service as long as it needs improvement. Correct, you cannot please all the people all of the time, but you can at least endeavor some improvement in the most ‘common” areas of complaints. So saying “take your car” is the same thing as telling people to move because they do not like Government. We voice concerns and problem areas; we need to insist on the change that we want to see.

We have had an invitation from the service provider to “public debate” and it was met with some distrust. The problem is, we know the problems, they have been raised, they are known, and have been ignored for so long. Maybe the requirement is not for us to be discussing problems but rather solutions – surely in any project plan that followed all the steps there should be a tiny space for solutions to recurring problems? Or was this just a plan, wrapped in lovely golden and blue, with an x amount of guaranteed money available and wham, there it is.

What is not being taken into consideration is this: there are so many informed people using the train, and many people who have experienced same mode of Transport in other countries. There is the distinct possibility that one of us “Guatrainers” might have a good, practical and workable solution without costing you the price of a “consultant”. But this would mean that someone must actually want to listen to their client, and really want to better something that can be great for everybody. I would however appreciate it if, at the chance that we do seriously want to discuss solutions, we get fifty (50) names, otherwise we might just seem to be bickering and not willing to participate in change.

Which brings another point that I want to raise. I have counted, on more than one of the smaller stations, more than 12 security guards – excluding the ones sitting in their office. Eight (8) Guards on the platform to make sure we are not chewing bubble gum (and taking their chances to get the number of one of the various pretty girls that use the train).  If we take the cost, and let us assume that they are all grade E for the purposes of this exercise. Let us presume that all the stations are equal in size (which it is not) and that they all have twelve (12) guards, who will work three (3) shifts and that there must be a whole relief shift because night shift workers must have time off.

Now if I calculate the rates as they are published according to industry standards, and I do not take into consideration all the levies, uniform, leave relief, one (1) whole night relief shift and of course margins/mark-up, the cost for security, labour only,  will be about R 1,500,000.00 per month, per station (9 stations) give or take a couple of thousand rand. The only way it could be less, if my calculations do not fail me, is if the night shift group is less than twelve (12), and there are smaller stations. This is pure labour cost, nothing added yet.

How is this important? Because, at almost any given time you will count twelve (12) guards, but when we want to top up/pay our cards (which we are only allowed to do and obtain from “authorized vendors” otherwise we will be prosecuted), there is only one (1) person in the booth to assist. This is at peak times, slow times, most of the time – and it just does not make any operational sense. Eight (8) guards checking that we do not chew bubble gum, drink cool drinks or smoke on the platform and one (1) person trying to assist all the people who want to pay? You might miss the bus or an important meeting because of the queue but eh, at least there is no bubble gum chewed or secondary smoke inhalation.

I want to say thank you though, for increasing the number of cars to eight (8) at peak times, when it is done consistently it really works great. Oh, and I might have mentioned this before, but, in the mornings more people travel from Pretoria to Johannesburg, and in the afternoon it works the other way around.

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