When the Gautrain first began running between Pretoria and Johannesburg, I was very impressed by it, and thought it was the best way of travelling. It was fast, convenient, comfortable and reasonably priced. It saved the hassle of driving in traffic.
So if I had to attend a meeting in Johannesburg, and the venue was accessible from a Gautrain station, I took the train in preference to driving. This was particularly useful in the December holiday season, 15 December to 15 January, when the price of the buses and parking were reduced.
But then I began to notice that it was always costing me more than I thought it did. I would put enough money in the card to cover the cost of my trip and a bit more, so that the next time I rode on the train I could pay when I got off the train rather than when I got on. But when leaving the parking garage, the machine briefly flashed the remaining balance, which was always lower than I expected.
Eventually I got a printout of my last few journeys, and noticed that there was an extra R20 being added to the cost of every journey. The fare between Hatfield and Rosebank is advertised as about R49 in off-peak periods, but it actually cost R69.00, because of the extra R20.00 being added every time. The reason for this extra charge is not explained in the fare tables.
So the last time I needed to travel to a meeting in Johannesburg, I added up the fares, parking charges, bus fares, and the extra R40.00, and it came to R160.00, and that didn’t look reasonable at all. I decided to go by car instead. The distance by car is 60 km, 120 km return. The cost of the petrol for such a trip is about R100.00. So without the extra R40.00 charged on the Gautrain, the fare at R120.00 might be competitive, considering wear and tear on the car and the driver. But R160.00 is not competitive at all, and if there is even only one other person travelling, travelling by car wins hands down.
One of the aims of introducing the Gautrain was to get cars off the overcrowded roads, but at those prices, there is no incentive.