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July 25, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa: Gautrain Efficiency for Events

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Photo by Andrea Willmore/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The Gautrain has changed the way people do business in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The speed at which passengers can traverse the cities by train means a venue 50 kilometres away may be quicker and easier to reach than a property in a densely populated suburb only 10 kilometres away. The Gautrain Management Agency shares what makes this sleek blue and gold train work.

The total route of ten stations and 80km of track is available seven days a week between 05h30 and 20h30. Stations include OR Tambo International Airport Park (ORTIA), Rhodesfield, Park (in Johannesburg’s CBD), Rosebank, Sandton, Marlboro, Midrand, Centurion, Pretoria and Hatfield. Each of the ten stations has a unique themed design that portrays the diverse resources, technology, economy and culture of the country. The stations are easily accessible and in some areas, such as Sandton and Rosebank, are within walking distance of other public transport nodes and a large number of shopping malls, convention centres, meeting venues and hotels.

The Gautrain operates as a cashless system and passengers may buy their Gautrain Gold Cards at any of the Gautrain stations. The integrated ticketing system allows passengers to pay for their train rides, bus rides and parking with a single card. Buses and shuttles services are a dedicated feeder and distribution service and their role is to transport passengers during weekdays to and from all stations excluding the ORTIA station.

Fares are structured in two ways: basic fares are pay-as-you-go and passengers may load their Gautrain Gold Card as and when they use the system; weekly and monthly fares are for frequent users, with monthly users benefiting from a 15% discount on peak fares and weekly users receive a 7.5% discount on peak fares. The minimum value required on the card for pay-as-you-go is R25 and the card itself costs R16 as a once-off, non-refundable fee.

The Gautrain’s airport link is a 15-minute trip from ORTIA to Sandton at speeds of around 160km per hour. For anyone who has travelled this 30km route by bus, coach, car or taxi, between traffic congestion and delays and regular road works that is a saving of at least 45 minutes in travel time. Business travellers today increasing value time saving over cost saving.

The Gautrain rail system was built in such a way that it would reduce travel distances and connect people to interesting places along the route including hotels, convention centres and meeting spaces. The hospitality industry, retail offerings and major corporate offices were quick to snap up areas around the stations during the planning phase. As a result, many major convention centres, hotels and meeting and events venues are located along the Gautrain bus and shuttle routes in Midrand, Rhodesfield, Hatfield, Pretoria and Park Station and many others are within walking distances in Rosebank and Sandton.

From March 2016 to April 2017 there were approximately 16-million train trips and five million bus trips recorded. Stats show an average of 66 000 passenger trips on the trains and 23 000 on the bus service per day.

The Gautrain Management Agency closely monitors travel patterns and demand levels on the Gautrain. The company reports that train demand is highest between 06h00 and 08h00 on trains travelling towards Sandton, from both the north and east. The pattern reverses during the afternoon, with demand peaking between about 15h30 and 18h00. In response to these travel patterns and the ever increasing demand for its services, the Gautrain has implemented several measures to increase on-track capacity:

1. Introduction of an additional eight-car train set during the morning peak (and later another during the afternoon peak) on the north-south line.

2. Introduction of slightly earlier and later trains between Sandton and ORTIA.

3. System-wide reduction in the interval between trains during the morning peak hour from 12 minutes to 10 minutes.

4. Introduction of innovative fare products designed to promote off-peak and counter-flow ridership.

One of the operator’s objectives is the integration of the Gautrain system with other public transport services in Gauteng. This includes regular engagement with the three metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni and the Gauteng provincial government for the alignment of transport plans and identification of integration projects or initiatives. This ensures effective enhancement of public transport networks that will address the transport needs for the province and easy mobility for public transport users.

Need for speed

The CSIR International Convention Centre (ICC) in Pretoria reports an increase in the attendance numbers of delegates due to the convenience of the Gautrain together with the Gautrain H2 Lynwood bus stop. The CSIR ICC provides conference organisers and delegates with a step-by-step information sheet to assist first-time users on how to conveniently travel to the property using the Gautrain system. Gautrain Gold Cards are also available for sale at the ICC. “The efficiency of the Gautrain service is brought home to us every time a visitor the CSIR ICC mentions having travelled for only around three hours from as far as Cape Town, including the flight and disembarking time of more than two hours. We therefore encourage our clients to make use of the Gautrain as it complements the seamless world-class service ethos of the CSIR ICC,” explains Refilwe Nchebisang, marketing coordinator.

The Sandton Convention Centre (SCC) and other three properties that form part of the Tsogo Sun Sandton Mile (Sandton Sun, InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers and Garden Court Sandton City) are within walking distance of the Sandton station of the Gautrain. Shaun Bird, sales and marketing manager for the Tsogo Sun Sandton Mile and ex-CEO of SAACI, says, “The Gautrain has become an integral part of travelling to our Sandton hotels and specifically the SCC. Since inception we have most certainly seen a growth in both business and visitor numbers at public events held at SCC. This is a key marketing tool for us when we bid for both local and international business.” He reports that a large corporate client has commented to him that the Gautrain has changed their travel budget and choice of venue for their annual conference, as local and international delegates arriving at ORTIA, as well as those within Gauteng, are all in Sandton within 15 minutes. SCC and Bombela, the Gautrain Management Agency, have entered in a marketing agreement in which public events at SCC can now be marketed at the Sandton Gautrain station on 17 screens across three platforms and the SCC can welcome delegates as they arrive.

The Radisson Blu Gautrain is the only hotel to reflect its unique location in its name. Located diagonally opposite the Sandton station less than 200 steps away, it is also the closest hotel within the Sandton node. There is a WhatsApp number for guests to contact the hotel as soon as they arrive and offer of complimentary valet walkover from the station to the hotel. General manager Werner Geere says the hotel does have benefits from the close collaboration with the Gautrain name: he reports that 49% of their corporate guests use the Gautrain as well as many leisure travellers, thanks to its efficiency, safety, convenience, hygiene and comfort. In addition, the hotel and Gautrain partner in a number of CSI programmes, one of which involved a group of previously disadvantaged school children from Pretoria taking the Gautrain to the hotel for milkshakes and a meal. Another involved the SA Guide-Dogs Association, with a doggie buffet served in the courtyard of the hotel. As an international corporate hotel, Radisson Blu Gautrain together with Gautrain operators look for ways to stay relevant to all communities.

Other major hotel groups offering conference and event venues with easy access to the Gautrain system include, but are not limited to, Tsogo Sun, Legacy Hotels and Resorts, City Lodge Group, Protea Hotels, African Pride Hotels, Sun International, Rezidor, Peermont, Holiday Inn, Premier Hotels and Resorts, Sheraton and Four Seasons. In addition, a large number of independents offer similar benefits and services, all increasing their competitiveness and making organising events in and around Gauteng much easier.


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