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Metrorail's promise of an express service falls flat

By unknown | May 18, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Andrew Molefe

Andrew Molefe

It looks as if Soweto residents have been taken for a big, fat April Fools ride.

With much fanfare and media smooching earlier this year, Metrorail announced the imminent launch of an ultra-luxury train to service the Soweto-Johannesburg route.

The planned eight-coach, 530 passenger train, christened the Soweto Express, was expected to hit the rails for a trial run in March.

A full-blown service was scheduled for last month, but Sowetans - excited by the prospect of a faster and more comfortable train - are still waiting. And there's not a word from Metrorail Gauteng.

Instead, it was announced on Wednesday that a R12billion monorail will be built between Johannesburg and Soweto in the next two years.

The 44,7km monorail will be a private sector initiative with no government funding. The project is expected to create more than 5000 jobs. The route will service 39 stations.

"It's the Great Train Robbery," said a commuter in a business class carriage en route from Soweto to Braamfontein. "Only this time the passengers are being robbed by the train bosses."

The Soweto Express proposed earlier was expected to stop at only three stations in Soweto - Naledi, Ikhwezi and Dube.

In February Metrorail's communications manager, Sithembile Mokaeane, said the new service was aimed at markets that had not been tapped.

"The service is aimed at middle- class township travellers."

When the train didn't arrive, Metrorail failed to tell anyone about the reasons for the delay.

In the weeks before the trial run, Sowetan was given the run-around when our reporters tried to get clarity on issues such as ticketing, project schedules and catering.

For more than a week, Metrorail communications staff were said to be either in meetings or at workshops. Their cellphones rang unanswered.

Yesterday an attempt to reach Mokaeane also failed: "He's no longer working for Metrorail," we were told.

But we managed to speak to a spokesman, Brenda Motau, who refused to comment.

"I can't talk about the Soweto Express now. But when we launch you'll be the first to know," she said.


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