Don’t get me wrong. I love the Gautrain (as is clearly evident in the picture). Actually, I love all trains, and it is really cool to have one that zips around at 160km/h in my neighbourhood. I’ve moaned that it is silly that the last one stops running at 20h30 and I’ve moaned that the airport link should open earlier than 05h30. I’ve moaned about the lack of buses over weekends. So I’ve moaned my moans, but overall I still think it is worth it because something like the Gautrain was needed to connect the economic hubs of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
However, I have an inherent need to test things and measure their performance. From various sources (colleagues, friends, the Twitterverse and the Facebookers) I’ve gathered that the Gautrain between Johannesburg and Pretoria works incredibly well if you’re a regular commuter. If you stay in the one city and have to travel daily to the other city, the Gautrain is a winner. In addition, if you’re tired of frequenting the malls in your area over a weekend, then the malls in another city are now an easy and stress-free Gautrain ride away.
But what if you’re in my scenario?
It is a Wednesday morning. My office is in Rosebank, right next to the Rosebank Gautrain station. I have an 11h00 meeting in Lynnwood Manor, Pretoria. I know there is a Gautrain bus stop right outside the building where my meeting will be held. Do I drive? Or do I take the Gautrain?
Today I put the Gautrain to the test.
Unfortunately the data I recorded on my trip from Rosebank to Lynnwood Manor got lost, but I managed to log some data on my return trip.
00:00 – Arrive at bus stop. (I didn’t count the ten steps it took me to walk to the bus stop.)
01:48 – Gautrain bus arrives. (Talk about good timing!)
17:41 – Gautrain bus arrives at Hatfield station.
15:44 – Time spent as follows: walking from the bus through the station turnstile, walking down the stairs to the platform, and spending a good 14 minutes waiting for the next train to arrive at the platform.
04:01 – Time spent sitting on the stationary train before it finally left Hatfield station.
37:19 – Time spent onboard the Gautrain from Hatfield station to Rosebank station. I stopped the timer the minute the train stopped in Rosebank. Time spent exiting the station was not logged.
01:48 + 17:41 + 15:44 + 04:01 + 37:19 = 1hr 16min 36sec
If I had to drive from the Lynnwood Manor office back to my office in Rosebank, I would have spent roughly 50 minutes on the road.
Some comments on the timing:
(1) The drive of 50 minutes assumes no traffic jams (accidents, slow trucks, faulty traffic lights, etc.), no roadworks slowing things down, and no other unforseen eventualities (like a puncture, for example).
(2) Although the total Gautrain trip took 1hr 16min, about half of that was time spent on the actual train. I consider that to be time gained because, during those 37 minutes, I could open my laptop and carry on working. (Strictly speaking I gained more than 37min because it took the train 4min before it departed from Hatfield.) When you are driving you cannot work and drive!
(3) My timing with respect to catching a bus was lucky. I have heard of people waiting up to 30 minutes before a bus arrives.
(4) No traffic jams or rush hour affected the bus journey (so perhaps I was also lucky).
Some comments on costs:
At the moment there are no tolls on the N1 connecting Johannesburg and Pretoria. According to Google Maps I would have travelled about 37km on the N1 highway, and if we assume a worst-case scenario of 40c per km (the current rumour as to how much the toll fees will be) I would have paid about R15.00. However, the rumours indicate that the price of 40c per km is what will be charged during peak hours and for those who travel outside peak hours (like I did this morning) the cost charged per km will be less.
I keep a detailed log book of my car’s fuel consumption and over the last 36,184km that I have travelled, my car averaged 6.3 litres per 100km. According to Google Maps the distance that I would have had to drive today from Rosebank to Lynnwood Manor would be 52.5km which would, on average, have burnt 3.3 litres of petrol. Currently 93 Unleaded is priced at R9.91 per litre; hence it would have cost me about R33.00.
I have no idea how to quantify wear and tear on my car, so I’m going to hazard a guess and say R1.00. My car is still fairly new (it has just hit the 60,000km mark) and it is still within its service plan, so I’m assuming that the wear and tear costs are minimal.
Total cost if I had travelled by car (assuming there had been tolls):
R15.00 + R33.00 + R1.00 = R49.00
In reality, though, it would’ve been less since there are currently no toll fees being charged. The R49.00 is a worst-case scenario.
My Gautrain trip today cost me: R46+R6 = R52. (See the Gautrain’s fare guide for details.)
So let’s look at the two options:
(1) Toll fees (worst-case scenario)
(2) No toll fees (current scenario)
R49.00 and 0 minutes free time
R52.00 and 37 minutes of free time (to catch up on work or whatever)
I prefer gaining time and for me the R3.00 difference is negligible. So in this scenario the Gautrain is clearly the better option.
R34.00 and 0 minutes of free time
R52.00 and 37 minutes of free time
For an extra R18.00 I gain 37 minutes, or, roughly, for every minute of free time I want, I have to pay 50c.
Now the question is: is one minute of free time worth 50c? If you wanted an hour just to yourself to do whatever you wanted, would you pay R30.00?
To be honest, I’m not sure I would.