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Thursday Jun 20, 2013

Gautrain mulling early morning, late evening trains

Bombela, the consortium operating the Gautrain, is considering introducing early morning and late evening train services between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport.

This is aimed at addressing the high passenger demand between these routes.

However, there are no plans to increase the number of stations in the Gautrain system in the short term - except the envisaged stations at Modderfontein on the east-west service, and Samrand on the north-south service.

This was revealed in a written reply by Transport Minister Ben Martins to the DA's transport spokesman, Ian Ollis, on Tuesday.

"The (Bombela) concessionaire is currently investigating the technical feasibility and associated costs to introduce an earlier train and a later train between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport," Martins said.

The planned train service increases, he said, would be done without affecting the contractual engineering and maintenance hours.

Bombela currently supplies 64 train carriages, which are a combination of four- and eightcar train sets in the peak hours, and 32 in the off-peak periods. There are 32 carriages on weekends and public holidays.

Martins said Bombela had indicated its willingness to consider paying for the envisaged increase in the train service, but that the company reserved the option to request a possible contribution from the Gautrain Management Agency.

"Discussions and investigations are continuing to further extend the operating hours, but there is no definite plan yet," he said.

In terms of the contract, Bombela is obliged to increase train service frequencies in the peak-hour period from five to six trains an hour on weekdays by June 2015.

In April, the Gautrain introduced capacity interventions, notably the replacement of the four-car with the eight-car trains.

This was done to address the overcrowding during peakhour periods of the northsouth route (Pretoria to Park station in the Joburg CBD).

Responding to a question on whether he would instruct Bombela to increase any service or facility (stations), Martins said: "The minister is not a party to the Gautrain concession agreement between the Gauteng provincial government and Bombela."

Martins also revealed that the government had, since June 7 last year, paid a monthly ridership guarantee, amounting to R831.4 million, to Bombela by the end of March.

Average weekday passenger trips on the train increased from 26 000 at the beginning of April last year to 42 000 at the end of March.

In terms of the agreement between the government and Bombela, signed at the start of the R26 billion project, a patronage guarantee was payable to the operator to ensure that it covered all its costs, including operational and maintenance.

The Gautrain is currently being heavily subsidised, at about two-thirds of ticket costs.

The Star


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