S.African high speed train link takes off

2nd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa's first high-speed train on Tuesday morning made its first trip between economic hub Johannesburg and capital city Pretoria.

The first train left Hatfield, the university district of Pretoria at 5.25am (0325 GMT), to the applause of passengers while the other train left a minute later in Rosebank, a commercial district on the northern outskirts of Johannesburg.

"I think the train is convenient for me. It will save me time and money, compared to the (minibus)taxis. I won't be stuck in traffic, I will use it every day," said Victoria Seipati, a student who was going to Pretoria who got on the train in Midrand a suburb between the two cities.

Although there were fewer passengers than expected for the first day of operation some braved the chilly morning and took the train for the experience.

"It was a smooth and exciting journey and we are very pleased.

"We came to Joburg for coffee, but it's too early, so we brought our own," said Grahame Gertsch from Pretoria.

The Gautrain -- Africa's only high-speed train -- was originally scheduled to launch its Pretoria link on June 28, but the opening was delayed by water seeping into a tunnel along its southernmost branch.

Gautrain's first leg, a link between Johannesburg and OR Tambo International Airport, opened last year on June 8, three days before the city hosted the opening match of the 2010 World Cup.

The $3.8 billion high-speed railway, a landmark initiative in a country with chronically underdeveloped public transport, will be supported by a network of feeder buses serving most of its 10 stations.

Gautrain can travel at speeds of 160 kilometres (100 miles) an hour, enabling commuters to make the trip from Sandton to Pretoria in 27 minutes.

The same trip takes about 45 minutes by car with normal traffic, and can take two hours or more during rush hour.

Local officials expect more than 100,000 passengers a day, mainly car commuters wanting to escape the region's notorious traffic.

© 2011 AFP

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