Moneyweb
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3 minute read
26 Jun 2018
9:36 am

What’s behind the Gautrain delays?

Moneyweb

Gautrain punctuality at 28-month low.

File image.

In April this year, the Gautrain’s punctuality record dipped to its lowest point since January 2016.

It nevertheless still scored 95.59%, and its average performance is among the best in the world, says Jack van der Merwe, CEO of the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA).

Except for February 2016 when it scored 95,95% on punctuality, the score has been well above 97.5% every month since January 2016, according to statistics supplied to Moneyweb by Gautrain concessionaire Bombela.

According to Bombela, most of the recent delays were due to cable theft, passengers who pressed the emergency button to stop the train after a fellow passenger fell ill, technical issues (a train failed at the Rhodesfield station) and train power problems between Pretoria and Hatfield.

According to Van der Merwe, the GMA measures Bombela’s performance in terms of the availability and punctuality of its trains. Bombela runs a total of 6 600 trains per month – one every 10 minutes during peak periods, and one every 20 minutes in off-peak periods.

The availability stipulation requires that every train be available from the point of origin to the destination station – from the Sandton station to OR Tambo International, for example, or from Hatfield in Pretoria to Park Station in Johannesburg.

The norm for Gautrain availability is 98.5%, says Van der Merwe.

Punctuality is measured at every station and requires that trains don’t leave more than 90 seconds early and don’t arrive more than 180 seconds late.

If punctuality dips below 94%, Bombela incurs penalties, says Van der Merwe. Any monies raised this way are used by the GMA for corporate social investment projects.

He says the norms have been determined in line with international best practice.

According to information on the website of the British Rail Delivery Group, the official measure for train punctuality in Britain is known as “the public performance measure (PPM), where short and long distance trains are considered ‘on time’ if they are five or 10 minutes after schedule respectively.”

This is measured only at the final destination.

The GMA last year announced that it would improve transparency with regards to the on-time performance of its trains. To this end it is now measuring punctuality by the minute. It aims to do this at every station in future, but technology currently allows such measurements at only 80% of the stations.

The results are published at a national level on the group’s website.

In the aviation industry arrivals are considered to be on time if a plane lands within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time. According to information published on the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) website, the best performer in May was FlySafair with a score of 97.73% and the worst performer was SA Express at 64.43%.

Van der Merwe points out that if only 1% of the Gautrain’s 6 600 monthly trains were late, it would amount to 66 trains. Tech savvy passengers are quick to take to social media in response, which might result in the perception that trains are late more often than they are in reality.

The GMA and Bombela are currently working together on a technical solution to cable theft, he says.

Bombela says it provides alternative transport when the train service is unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances.

Van der Merwe also disclosed to Moneyweb that the GMA is holding about R24 million in ridership fees that passengers have loaded onto Gautrain cards that have since expired and have failed to claim back.

Gautrain cards expire five years from date of manufacture and the first batch expired in December last year.

Despite a campaign to make passengers aware of the looming expiry date and advising them to replace the cards and claim the remaining amount on the expired cards, a total of R24 million remains unclaimed.

This money is held by the GMA and will be forfeited in favour of the company after three years.

Watch the video below to see how to claim any money left on your expired Gautrain card.

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