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I'm probably the worst person to write a critical account on long distance trains.
My affair with this invention was ignited way back. So, when Shosholoza Meyl invited me to enjoy a train ride to Magaliesburg, I was extremely annoyed. I was annoyed because it was such a short journey. Why couldn't they take me far, far away? I keep hoping for moments of deja vu as the snake of steel cuts through the rolling fields of cosmos blanket.
I always watch in awe when, every now and then, the invention of majesty takes a whiff of smoke in between the tickerty-nock and the nickerty-tock rhythm of hypnosis.
The Premier Classe, which was first piloted with only four coaches, was launched last year with four more coaches before graduating to the full 16 cars last week.
Everything was on schedule and we experienced no glitches at take off. Remarking on these developments Ngabi Mareko, executive manager of Shosholoza Meyl, blamed my experience of unbearable delays on cable theft. She says that crime is to blame for the delays that have tarnished the image of the locomotive industry.
The train's interior is bigger and the decor is more stylish. Mareko agrees: "The whole idea is that from the warmth, comfort and safety of our Premier Classe lounges at Johannesburg and Cape Town stations, to the time you step into the Premier Classe, you will discover the refinement of luxury-train travel and will enjoy the opulence of a boutique hotel."
But it is usually the service that sets winners apart from contenders. From their meticulous black-and-white uniforms to their impeccable memories, I was impressed by these young lads. Our breakfast which flatly put to shame all business class attempts, was what I scored the train on. They passed with flying colours.
The smoking area would have been the most brilliant feature of the train had it not been so far from the dining coach. Nonetheless, I was roused to learn that we could order drinks from the smoking coach too. The new Premier Classe train also shows off its award- winning wine list that was voted Best Wine 2007 by Diners Club International, impressive cuisine, and its state-of-the-art water purification system that provides sparkling clean water.
Leonard Potgieter, marketing manager for Shosholoza Meyl, says: "The compartments have new power sockets to ensure passengers keep in touch with the outside world no matter where they are."
Would I willingly pay R945 for a single trip to Cape Town? Absolutely. With such beautiful surroundings, service this excellent and space so unlimited, I would happily endorse Shosholoza Meyl.