Gautrain usage outgrows parking
Spending up to 45 minutes waiting in line for a parking spot to become available has become the norm at several Gautrain stations in the city as the number of commuters rises.
Gautrain commuters wait for parking space at the Pretoria Central Gautrain station.
Commuters yesterday patiently sat waiting in their cars, hoping for a car to leave, while the entrance to the Pretoria station parking lot was guarded by four security guards close to a "parking full" sign.
Solly Madumo, a legal officer working in the Johannesburg CBD, said he was often late for work due to the parking situation at the Pretoria station. A regular commuter from Estia Park, he said he did not have any problems with parking before winter.
"I only started using the train recently again after winter and since then parking has been a nightmare. This happens up to three times a week and I am then told to wait for a spot to become available or to go the Hatfield or Centurion stations," he said.
He said he preferred not to make use of the Hatfield station parking lot as it was too busy during peak hours and it sometimes took him up to 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot.
He explained that going to the Centurion station had other implications like travelling extra kilometres and an increase in petrol usage.
"The closest bus stop to me is in Boom Street. It is about 7km from my house and too far for me to walk. My wife works on the other side of town and cannot drop me at the station. The only option I have is to use my car and park it at the station," he said.
Madumo said he was forced to go to Hatfield station three times last week as he had meetings scheduled that he could not afford to miss.
Bombela Concession spokeswoman Kelebogile Machaka confirmed that parking had become a problem at several Gautrain stations. She explained that the train system currently carried between 37 000 and 40 000 commuters a day, and about 13 000 of those commuters used the buses.
"Considering that this growth [60 percent growth year on year] reflects not only a simple purchasing decision but a fundamental change in consumer behaviour, it is clear that commuter take-up has been exceptional," she said.
Machaka said Bombela, along with the Gautrain Management Agency, were looking at system enhancements to alleviate capacity problems, not only in the parking areas, but on the trains as well.
"Gautrain project has set up a bus service planning committee that reviews the routes on a monthly basis... to ensure optimal utilisation of fleet and routes. This committee also evaluates passenger feedback. We anticipate that in the next few weeks several new routes will be introduced while others will be optimised," she said.
Although she understood that it was not possible for all commuters to make use of bus services, she urged commuters living and working near bus routes to make use of the service.