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THE high-speed Gautrain took off early yesterday morning, marking the dawn of a new era in public transport.
While the early morning service experienced minor ticketing glitches, the rest of the first trips to and from OR Tambo International Airport were smooth.
Gautrain runs every 12 minutes during peak hours and every 20 minutes in off-peak hours between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport.
The Sowetan team arrived at 5.15am at Sandton station, where there were already long queues of people wanting tickets.
Theresa Hlahla of Mulbarton, southeastern Johannesburg, said she woke up early and drove to OR Tambo Airport "to get a feel of the train and to say I was there".
Hlahla said she did not mind the chaos and long wait before getting her ticket.
"I think they will get it right. This is the first day and a new experience for the country," she said.
On the R100 ticket from Sandton to OR Tambo, Hlahla said: "The price is fine considering that taxis cost as much as R400. It is better than driving because there is no traffic."
Travelling at a maximum speed of 160kmh, the journey between Sandton and OR Tambo takes about 14 minutes.
Jerome Govender, chief executive of the Bombela concession company, which is in charge of Gautrain, said they had ferried about 1000 passengers within the first hour of operation and 4000 by midday.
He said they were looking at transporting between 11000 and 12000 passengers by the end of the day.
In the afternoon Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane told journalists in Sandton that the ticketing glitches would be fixed.
"The system could not be perfect on the first day. The issues that have been raised are just peripheral. Gautrain has not failed," Mokonyane said.
Ndebele said: "There were quite serious problems in heaven - in the beginning."