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Wednesday Jul 25, 2012

Gautrain to jack up services after several recent hitches

Plans are in the pipeline to improve Gautrain service delivery after a recent spate of technical problems hit the year-old rapid rail service.

The problems included trains getting stuck on the rails, delayed arrivals of trains and the apparent absence of rescue plans.

Passengers recently took to social media platforms, news websites and Gautrain's web pages to complain about the lack of communication and response by the rail service's management, arguing that although they accepted that problems were unavoidable, they expected prompt explanations from Gautrain.

After spending three hours in a Gautrain which got stuck on the rails between Centurion and Midrand last week, Vinay Chibba said: "The customer doesn't expect you to be perfect; we expect you to be honest."

Passengers complained about the failure of protocols after the rescue train failed to tow the troubled train to safety, forcing passengers on board to wait a further 30 minutes until another train picked them up.

Mechanisms in the train, which was carrying 450 people instead of the required 360, were switched off, resulting in the lack of ventilation.

"The pregnant woman next to me turned grey in the face from the lack of fresh air so we asked the driver to switch it on and off to allow for air conditioning," Ann Lombard said.

But, said Bombela Concession Company (BCC) spokeswoman Kelebogile Machaka, Bombela understood the level of frustration, the inconvenience and discomfort experienced by the passengers during the interruptions, particularly when they occurred during peak times.

This, she said, caused passengers to perceive the actions of station staff as inadequate.

"However, we want to reassure our passengers that we act in their best interests and try to avoid further inconvenience by attending to issues as soon as we can," Machake went on to say.

She said Gautrain engaged with its customers and other interested parties regularly via social media channels and provided them with up-to-date information in addition to media releases, SMSes and others.

"It is through customer feedback that we have in the past been able to implement some changes to our service, such as increasing train capacity, (running additional) trains during peak hours and simplifying the fare structure," she said.

Passengers called the failure to communicate during ordeals a slap in the face, saying Bombela staff were lacking in humanity when they failed to dispatch officials to problem sites to assure them that help was on the way and to make sure that pregnant and elderly passengers were all right.

Machaka said: "We are aware that passengers want more information, so Bombela is working on a communications strategy to be able to provide more meaningful information to passengers on a more regular basis during a disruption or delays."

Bombela was committed to improving communication with customers, especially during service disruptions, she said, adding that they did their best to provide realtime information to passengers when there was a delay or technical fault on the train.

"However, response also depends on the nature of the incident, as in some cases technical faults require full investigation from our technicians," she said.

Machaka said an improved service was on the way and they continued to encourage customers to lodge their complaints, queries, suggestions, through Gautrain's website or e-mail

"We also have a Gautrain callcentre (0800 Gautrain or 4288 7246), where passengers can register their queries, complaints and other feedback."

She said that when passengers logged a query through either of these channels, it was logged in a central database and responded to with a reference number.

The query would also be categorised and used to determine areas of concern, points that require improvement and/or areas of high demand.

Pretoria News

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