I absolutely can not believe that I haven’t written a post about the Gautrain before. I am so positive about this railway and bus network that I should really bill them for rendered marketing services. Little ol’ me has added a lot of value to their brand. I recommend it to colleagues living in Pretoria and working in Jo’burg, I tell my Couchsurfers to take it when they first arrive in the country, I tell everyone to take it to the airport. I absolutely love the system and how well it works. It is a triumph for public transport in this country.
This being said, today was the first time I used it for business travel between JHB and PTA. I’ve used it countless times to the airport but that’s quite an exclusive route so I didn’t really see how the other routes were being used. So, today I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. It struck me how many black people (the majority by far) were using the train and I think it is great. This surprise stems from the fact that when the train launched it was said to be too expensive for anyone other than high paying businessman. High paying businessman in South Africa are still very much white males so you can understand that I was pleased to realise the stigma hadn’t panned out into reality.
Then I was stuck by the true revelation: The train on its simple North South Route exemplifies where South Africa should be heading in terms of the wealth and power spread. Clearly the people on the train could afford to be there. They seemed relaxed there. They belonged there. They were everyday commuters. There was no stigma around them being there. They weren’t privileged or stand out- they just were. In the years ahead all places in South Africa will have this spread of people. Currently black and white are still disproportionately split but as time goes by, wounds heal and education reaches everyone this train will be like anywhere else and visa versa. The train to me now if almost what the Cosby Show was in the 90’s – a reflection of normal people being normal. Stereotypes and stigmas suck. Look at what is really happening around you. It’s great to see it already happening on such a small scale but it gives me hope for the future and the point that we normal people will all truly get along in the future.