gautrain, public transport, uber

It is cheaper to drive yourself to the airport than it is to use the Gautrain, but only if you are travelling for a day or two.

This was my experience when I recently made a trip from Centurion to O.R. Tambo airport, using an Uber and the Gautrain service.

By train

Beginning on a weekday morning in Centurion, I called an Uber to the Centurion Gautrain station.

It took the Uber seven minutes to arrive, and the 10km journey lasted 16 minutes and cost R103.

At the Gautrain station, I had to purchase a card or ticket, which took roughly five minutes to do.

Prices vary depending on your starting and ending station, and I opted for a return ticket from Centurion to O.R. Tambo – which cost R431.

A PR system and display board will alert you when a new train is approaching, but you can also download the Gautrain App on your phone to keep track of the schedule – as it can vary between weekdays, weekends, and public holidays.

On the day I was there, there was a new Gautrain travelling in each direction every 20 minutes.

I was on the platform for eight minutes before a train arrived, and then I was on my way.

My journey required three stops before arriving at the airport, and I switched from the north-south to the west-east line at Marlboro, with only a two-minute delay between trains.

The total train journey itself took 27 minutes.

For the return journey, I had to wait longer for a train as it was a Sunday evening and therefore rather quiet. It was roughly an hour between when I first walked onto the platform at O.R. Tambo and walked off the platform in Centurion.

The Uber was more or less identical in terms of time and cost, adding another R102 to my travel tab.

All tallied up, my trip to the airport cost R636 and took a combined travel time of roughly 55 minutes on the way there, and 116 minutes on the way back.

Had I taken an Uber straight to the airport and another to get back, I would have paid R618 – according to the app’s estimates – and it would likely have been a bit faster.

gautrain, public transport, uber

By car

To do the same journey via car, it would have taken approximately 24 minutes to travel the 35km to the airport using the southbound R21, according to Google Maps.

My car has a combined fuel consumption of 5.4l/100km, which translates to 18.5km per litre.

At 70km for the full trip, I would have used 3.8 litres of petrol, which would cost R82.19 at the current inland price for petrol 93.

So if the journey by car would have cost almost eight times less than using the Gautrain, and would have been roughly twice as fast either way, why would anyone use the alternative?

The deciding factor regarding which option is cheaper will, in many cases, come down to the cost of parking and how long you will be away for.

According to the 2020 parking fees at O.R. Tambo, motorists pay R190 for parking in Parkade 2 for between 12-24 hours, with R95 added on top for each additional 12 hours.

However, the fees in 2022 seem to be higher, as the last two times I travelled to O.R. Tambo this year I had to pay R300 for parking in both instances – and both times my car was at the airport for under 36 hours.

Assuming you now pay R200 for parking between 12-24 hours with R100 added for each additional 12 hours, the total cost after leaving my car at the airport over a roughly 80-hour period would have been R700.

This means driving to the airport would have cost a total of R782.19.

gautrain, public transport, uber

The verdict

For driving to be cheaper than taking the train, I would need to spend less than R554 on parking, which means my car would have to be at the airport for less than 60 hours, or two-and-a-half days.

What this shows is that, for short trips, you are probably better off driving to the airport yourself and leaving your car in the long-term parking than using the Gautrain or an Uber.

However, for longer times away, the cost of parking may start to exceed the cost of using public transport, so plan ahead before your next journey.

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