Slow motion Gautrain irks frustrated commuters

High-speed express blames aging system for recent technical issues

Koena Mashale Journalist
The Gautrain service is experiencing problems.
The Gautrain service is experiencing problems.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Gautrain commuters have been left frustrated by delays of the high speed train recently due to multiple technical problems that have resulted in some being stuck for up to two hours.

Gautrain has confirmed that it has experienced a series of disruptions because of failures caused by aging infrastructure.

Commuter Kgaugelo Selane said she had been stuck on the train on several occasions.

“It was on June 4, and I had a very important meeting that day at 8am. I got to the Marlboro station at 7am, but the minute the train started coming I could see there was a problem with it, it was moving rather slowly not at its usual pace.

“We got onto the train but it didnt move and we were delayed by another 10 minutes before it started moving, by then it was about half past 7 and I had notified my supervisor that I would be late. We weren’t even close to the Midrand station before it stopped in the middle of a veld,” said Selane.

She said passengers on the train were frustrated by the wait.

“Everyone was angry and wanted answers. There was one lady who wanted to even get off but we were in such an odd place that we couldn’t get off. We stayed there for about an hour and then it started moving but again slowly by then I had missed the meeting entirely.

“There was no communication and no compensation at all; the service is deteriorating,” said Selane.

Another commuter , Thambe Mogale, said he missed three meetings after he was stuck in the train for almost three hours back in April.

“I was stuck on the train from 8am until 10.30am, I had to keep updating colleagues that I was running late because the train was stuck. What frustrated me more was that even after getting to the station, you also wait for the bus again,” said Mogale.

Mogale said even after the delays, there was no sort of compensation.

“After all the delays, no compensations such as half price or anything [were offered].”

While speed and convenience are the reason many people choose the Gautrain, Kamogelo Moremis wish to get to her destination faster ended up being a pipe dream when what was supposed to be a 30-minute ride ended up being a two hours ride.

In January, Moremi said, she was travelling from Park Station to Marlboro when the train stopped.

“We had stopped at the Rosebank station for more than 40 minutes, the whole time the security on the train would tell us that it was just a minor delay.

“When we thought everything was fine, we then stopped again at the Marlboro station for at least 30 minutes. I got on the train from Park Station at 6am only to get to the Midrand station at 8am,” said Moremi.

Gautrain CEO Tshepo Kgobe said they realised the system was aging quicker than expected when two trains got stuck, losing two lines in January.

He said the recent incidents, attempted cable theft, APS switches tripping several times and signal failure had motivated them to fast-track renewals.

“We are doing renewals and once those are done, we will be able to deal with the problems being experienced. And honestly, it is just the aging of the system in general, it has gotten to a point where it has done well in the last 14 years but it needs to be renewed,” said Kgobe.

“Two auto-parallel substations (APS) switched off to prevent a fire or explosion on the trains but we lost both lines and when that happened, we could not take a train to rescue the other train or to bring it close enough to transfer the passengers, and that becomes the big issue.

“And then we managed to fix one of the APS and got one of the lines restored but that same APS tripped when we sent a second train. So now we had two trains stuck almost close to each other and this told us that the system is aging and its sensitivity has increased,” said Kgobe.

“We are in the process of renewals fast-tracking them and a tender is already out there as we are in the middle of concessions and when it is completed, there will be numerous upgrades to the system,” said Kgope.

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