July 17th, 2007, 01:30 AM
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Luxury Soweto train on track
Luxury Soweto train on track
The Soweto Business Express train service is up and running, with first-class service for Sowetans on the move.
July 3, 2007
By Ndaba Dlamini
SIT back, plug in your laptop, sip a cup of coffee and prepare for your business day ahead - all on the Soweto Business Express, a premier express train expected to cut travelling time from Soweto to Park Station in Johannesburg.
Set to change the look of public transport in the city, the new train service was officially launched at the Naledi Station in Soweto on a freezing Tuesday morning on 3 July by Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe. In attendance were the Gauteng MEC for transport, Ignatius Jacobs, the member of the mayoral committee for transport, Rehana Moosajee; and the Metrorail chief executive, Lucky Montana.
Welcoming guests to the function, held in a tent pitched next to a railway line at the station, Moosajee said the train service, a Metrorail concept, would improve the lives of people living in Soweto. She described the train service as a revolution in Joburg's transport system.
Moosajee's view was reiterated by Radebe, who said the service was "a true embodiment of a continued journey for the revolution of the public transport system in South Africa". It was the government's objective, he said, to achieve a high-quality public transport network that integrated rail, bus and taxi to form a single, efficient and effective public transport system.
Public transport use
"I am highly delighted to say the introduction today of the Soweto Business Express within the current rail environment is a commendable initiative and will go a long way towards creating a culture of public transport use among all South Africans."
The timing of the introduction of the express train was opportune, given the preparations for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, according to Radebe, who said the train would be used particularly to transport people to the games at FNB Stadium.
"We expect that the express will also be deployed effectively by Metrorail as part of our transport operations plan for both the Confederations Cup in 2009 and, ultimately, the games in 2010. The Fifa family, international visitors and our own people stand to benefit from the improved mobility [brought about by] the express service."
The train service is targeted at the middle-class residents of the sprawling township who own cars. With people using the express train to travel to work, the service was expected to reduce congestion on the roads, Montana said.
"The introduction of the express train service is a response to the demands of the people of Soweto. What people must note also is that the Soweto community is not homogeneous and we are mandated to provide services to all classes in the township."
Expected to spread
Montana added that the train on the Naledi to Johannesburg corridor, the busiest corridor in the city with over 180 000 passengers transported by Metrorail every day, was an introductory service that was expected to spread to other parts of the city and the province.
"A similar service providing comfort, safety and security will be introduced between Johannesburg and Tshwane soon," he said.
Looking chic in its new white, gold and black paint, the train comprises of eight coaches with a capacity to carry 530 people. It will ply the Johannesburg to Naledi route at peak hours with stops in Dube and Ikhwezi stations before its final destination at Naledi Station.
People using the service would use a park-and ride-facility, Montana said. "We have entered into a deal with Metrobus to transport people to and from the train stations. The boarding fee will cost R310 a month and commuters can use the same tickets to board buses."
The train is faster and more luxurious than the ordinary commuter trains plying the Soweto route. Each coach is manned by Grade C security guards and travellers enjoy first-class treatment during their journey. There are separate ticket-sale points and boarding entrances for the express train.
After the formal proceedings, guests were taken on a ride on the train, which cost Metrorail R2-million to refurbish.
The Soweto Business Express, chic in its white, gold and black colours