But delayed for 3 hours
Transport Minister Jeff Radebe was the first passenger to get the feel of the new Soweto Business Express train yesterday. And for a long time he went nowhere.
Radebe and assorted dignitaries and officials from the transport sector braved the early morning chill for a short hop between Naledi and Dube stations on the much-awaited express train.
Fortunately the event was just a mock-up of a normal commute because the 6am train only inched away from the platform shortly after 9am.
Radebe shared his coach with the ANC Youth League's president Fikile Mbalula, representatives of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and journalists.
Speaking at Naledi Station before boarding the train, Radebe said the 530-passenger express was one of many rail passenger initiatives in the pipeline for Soweto.
"The plan has specifically identified interventions targeted at various corridors located within the greater Soweto areas such as the Bara link extension and the link into Nasrec without having to travel through New Canada," he said.
"There is also a planned Naledi extension that will open up access to Dobsonville-Braamfischer communities that currently do not enjoy access to rail services."
The train's operator, the South African Rail Commuters Association, said plans were at an advanced stage for a single ticket system where passengers use the same ticket to board buses and taxis for transport to and from the train stations at no extra cost.
Lucky Montana, chief executive of the company, said the train would not disrupt other trains on the line.
Tickets cost R310 a month. A daily trip from Naledi to Park Station and back costs R14. Six cabin crew will serve drinks and distribute newspapers and there will be security guards on board.
The train will leave Naledi Station at 6am and arrive at Park Station at 6.40am.
In the afternoon it leaves Park Station at 5.30pm and arrives at Naledi Station at 6.15pm.