Gautrain is a premier mass rapid railway system that operates between Johannesburg and Pretoria and also connects the two cities to the airport. It’s main aim has been to provide an alternative to driving and to reduce congestion on the roads. However, since its penetration is not deep enough, it serves well mostly for people who live and work in areas close to the train stations, and people who want to use the airport line to travel to areas like Pretoria and Sandton from O R Tambo. For most others, it ends up as a once-off ride.
This is the main reason why I ended up using the Gautrain for the first time only recently, despite having lived in Joburg for more than two years! In recent weeks, some work has taken me to Pretoria several times, and rather than driving the 60-odd kilometers, I decided to try the train. It was the most comfortable and stress free journey I have had.
Gautrain lines and stations
Gautrain operates three lines – the yellow, red and the blue lines.
Yellow line – this is the airport service that runs between Sandton and O R Tambo. Fares on this line are higher than the other two commuter lines and depends on the station you travel from.
Red line – this is the North-South commuter service that runs between the Johannesburg Park station to Hatfield in Pretoria. The stations in between are Rosebank, Sandton, Marlboro, Midrand, Centurion and Pretoria. You can transfer to the yellow (airport) line at Sandton and Marlboro stations
Blue line – this is the East-West commuter service that runs between Sandton and Rhodesfield, and stops at Marlboro too.
Sandton and Marlboro stations are the two main interchanges where you can change lines.
How to use the Gautrain
Gautrain provides a park and ride facility (unless someone is dropping you off). This means that you can park your car at any station and collect it on your way back (parking fees apply). However, to use any of the Gautrain services, you must buy a Gold card. If you are a first-time user, on entering a Gautrain station, you can get a paper ticket which will allow you to enter the premises. This will also be your parking ticket, so please retain it till the end of your journey.
The gold cards can be easily purchased at any of the above mentioned stations via easy-to-use vending machines or at a ticket counter, using cash, debit or credit cards. Some retail stores also sell the cards, details of which can be found here.
One gold card needs to be purchased per traveller and a non-refundable fee of R13 is payable per card. You can then top-up each card for any value you choose. The same card can be used to pay for the trains, buses and parking. You simply need to tap the card on the machines and it automatically deducts the requisite amount of fare.
Airport service: As mentioned earlier, the fares on the airport service are different and higher than those for the commuter lines. This is a pay-as-you service, meaning a single fee is charged as soon as you tag out of the O R Tambo Airport, using the gold card. Train passes are not applicable.
Commuter service (red and blue lines): If you are a regular user, you can buy Gautrain’s 7-day or 35-day train passes, which are discounted. However, if you are just a once-off traveller like me, you can use the pay-as-you-go service, under which you just load your card for a small amount, that would be sufficient to cover your travel and parking.
Your gold card must have a minimum balance of R20.
Peak and off-peak travel
Like most transit services across the world, Gautrain also has peak and off peak hours, where fares differ. Besides the airport fare, which remains the same irrespective of the time of travel, there are three different fare categories depending upon your travel time.
Red fare: applicable between 6.30am and 7.30am on weekdays. It depends on the direction of travel (southbound primarily). This is the highest fare category.
Orange fare: applicable between 6.00am to 8.30am (unless a red fare is applicable), or between 3.30pm and 6.00pm on weekdays. This fare applies all day on weekends and public holidays.
Green fare: applicable before 6.00am, between 8.30am and 3.30pm and after 6.00pm on all weekdays. This is the lowest fare category.
You can get more information here.
Gautrain offers feeder bus services from most of its stations to the surrounding office parks, university campuses and shopping centres. Route maps can be downloaded here. To avail the bus service, your gold card must have a minimum balance of R20. On boarding a bus, make sure you tap the machine placed at the entrance. Bus fares cannot be purchased on the bus and you must have a gold card.
All Gautrain stations offer safe and ample parking facilities. The parking fee is automatically deducted at the gate when you tap your gold card to exit. So make sure that you have enough money on the card! The same parking fees are applicable across all stations. Long-term parking is also available.
If you are a first time user and have obtained a paper ticket upon entrance, remember to either pay the parking fee at a counter or just use your gold card to tap out. If you don’t use your gold card, you will have to pay the non-rail user parking fee which is substantially higher. the first 15mins of parking are free (useful for drop-offs), after which various slabs apply. More information on parking fees is available here.
Opening and Closing Times
These vary as per the different stations. The below timelines have been obtained from the Gautrain website. Please double check before travelling.
|STATION||OPENING TIMES||CLOSING TIMES|
|Sandton||Approximately 04:35||Approximately 21:35|
|O R Tambo airport||Approximately 04:50||Approximately 21:20|