Mere Observations

An Honest, Open Letter to Gautrain…

… more specifically, the people, the apparent humans who run/control the companies that own the Gautrain system and ensure that it’s operating.

Dear You People,

Hi. I’m just a little commuter, but I have some big pronouncements. You may or may not be surprised by what I have to say. First off, I want to say thanks, I guess, for the subway system (because that’s what it is — even though it goes overground, too). I’ll hazard a guess and say that if it wasn’t for the 2010 World Cup, you wouldn’t have done your darndest to railroad (hehe) this transport system into existence. But thanks anyway. We can get to work and school a little easier, as long as we can pay above and beyond for it. But it’s not South Africa if the poor are constantly pushed to the margins, amirite?

Perhaps there are less cars on the road (I doubt it, I see the M1 everyday: shit is packed!) because those cars are being held at various Gautrain parking lots at a (now) R21-a-day ransom, and less carbon dioxide emissions are good, right?

And it’s a really fast way to get where we want/need to go — it no longer makes working the farthest part of Pretoria but still wanting to live in the East Rand sound AS ridiculous as it did 10 years ago.

It’s clean too, because y’all have enforced strict rules against eating or having open food containers on the trains, and I suppose as a proponent of clean spaces, I like this. Your premises are safe, as long as nobody is trying to shove some fragranced paper in my face (codeword: chloroform) to smell.

Now that we’ve gotten the undeniable benefits of the Gautrain’s existence to our lives out of the way, let’s talk about the problems I have with the way things are being done. I’m not a business person but I’m a customer and my opinion should count, right?

Since I started commuting regularly, the monthly cost of me getting to work and back was (including the shuttle bus I take from one of the stations to reach my office park) R1678 exactly. It’s not increased by about R80. Small it may seem to you, but to me, it feels like someone took a detractable baton to my damn Achilles. Before the fare increase, I was already fronting like “I barely have enough left over after paying for transport to work and household expenses and the flippin’ monthly debt repayments — I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this,” but I shut up because I had no other choice. To ensure I get to work regularly and on time, I guess I have to pay a premium and swallow my pride.

Then you just decided to play with our collective feelings and mess up our budget planning with The Fare Increase of June 1 Which Nobody Asked For. What we really would’ve loved is if you came through with the Fare Reduction That Is So Unlike You But Everyone Would Totally Dig.

But y’all don’t ride that way.

This year’s fare increase…
Daylight robbery

Let me explain why o yang stressa:

  1. You didn’t give commuters enough notice time that you was gonna do this. It was only in the last days of May when I heard whispers at the bus stop that the fares would be going up (and don’t tell me I should’ve checked the Gautrain alert SMSes — I get those Gautrain alert SMSes!). A month, at least, is sufficient time for us to deal with and prepare for the imminent changes, NOT three measly days. Folks just got paid and have their monthly expenses planned out, then you just do what you did. Not cool, Bombela Consortium, not cool.
  2. You have the nerve to act as if this fare increase is for the good of the commuters. “To continue providing you with our great service.”images
  3. You do this every fxxking year. And you say the same crap every year to defend this nonsense. The slogan this year is “A slight increase still saves you BIG TIME”. Bitch, slight? Small?? Nawl. Paying more than a thousand for a basic (because that’s what it is) subway commute monthly is bad enough, and you’re still going pile more on next year. I understand the price of services go up and our economy is in the toilet, but I don’t really see where this extra fare revenue would be going. The card loading machines are still the same, your validation gates are still the same, glitching as always, and I see the toilet paper your chommies Strategic Partners Group are having put in the restrooms. I could travel in an Uber with leather seats for less, I’m sure (no, I’m just exaggerating).
  4. But at least passengers going to OR Tambo Airport don’t get a fare increase, right? Great, huh? images (3)Most people going to the airport are tourist foreigners or people who like things are averse to traffic, and THEY don’t give a shit how much it costs. I’m getting the feeling there is a bias towards airport commuters; them folks have a direct line from Sandton to the airport, a train just for them that doesn’t stop anywhere else. As if a Gauteng-er’s biggest problem in life is getting to the airport on time.

In reference to point 3, the proud proclamations of how we need you, as if you’re doing us the greatest service in all of South Africa’s history of transportation are quite telling. You go so hard acting like this is all normal and totally reasonable, because perhaps you’re afraid we see through the bullshit (we all do) and you know you’re ripping us off (you are), but don’t want to own up. Pathetic.

I know for a fact that a Gautrain boycott will never happen in this lifetime, and neither am I trying to start one. I don’t give a shit. I’m just venting. Anybody who is legitimately trying to get people to boycott anything will be made a laughing stock of on Twitter. Even if the object that needs boycotting is problematic. If local social media has taught me anything, it’s the catchy mantra from the first act of High School Musical:

Stick to the status quo.

South Africa is where calls for boycotts die young, but somehow protest action is rife, boi. There are few, more affordable alternatives that would trump the Gautrain, and White people in South Africa would sooner rather accept paying R3500 (because that’s where you’re going, that’s what you’re aiming for in 2019. I just know it.) a month to sit on a train that zooms above all the traffic than ever step into a taxi. They may even take their chances in the traffic again in their own cars.

The money will keep rolling in for y’all, because on ground level, the choices we have are either few or unappealing, so we’ll just suck it in and pay for the right to travel efficiently and safely.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that this isn’t right. You ain’t right.

The majority of Bombela Consortium, the company that owns all things Gautrain, consists of European companies, with only ONE company that is BEE. So it’s a whole board of mostly (I’m presuming) old White men allowing their subordinates in Finance/Costing to hike up the prices because “Who cares? They have no other transport system to turn to that’s like ours, South Africans will pay any amount for something, begrudgingly, if they believe it has more value than something else. Well, not the poor ones, but who cares about poor people? They’re not profitable, yuck.”

Sometimes I wonder if South Africa even belongs to South Africans anymore.



P.s. Step on a rusty nail.


One thought on “An Honest, Open Letter to Gautrain…

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