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Bus or train – which is the cheapest?

By Danielle van Wyk

It is no secret that public transport is not the most reliable in South Africa. Between frequent taxi and bus strikes and train cable theft, commuters are often left disappointed and frustrated. But with few alternatives available, public transport remains how the majority get around. This week Justmoney explores which is the cheapest mode of public transport: the bus or the train.

Bus service

Golden Arrow Bus Services announced at the end of last year that passenger fares would be increased by an average of 7% as of 25 December 2017. However, pensioner fares and most off-peak fares stayed the same. According to Golden Arrow this increase was largely necessitated by soaring fuel costs.  The company also made it clear that this decision was only considered after all other cost absorption measures were explored and exhausted.

The bus company further added that the decision to increase the fares was done in a way to minimise the impact on their passengers as discussed at the passenger forums held late November last year.

As of 7 January 2018, the fees are as below:

Train service

Metrorail is responsible for transporting up to 2 million passengers daily in the following operational areas: Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) owns 317 stations of the 468 stations that Metrorail operates. The remainder belongs to Transnet Freight Rail. Prasa provides commuter rail services on 3180 kilometres of track of which it owns 2228 kilometres and Transnet Freight Rail the rest.

Metrorail prices tend to increase year on year and average anywhere between 50 cents and R1 for single tickets, between R1 and R2 for weeklies and between R2 and R40 for monthlies.

*To check the prices for your travel route, click here.

And the cheapest one is …

For the purposes of this comparison, Justmoney compared the route from Bellville to Cape Town for a month to determine the cheapest mode of transport.

The results, with reference to the above pricing structures, are:

Bus service:

                        13.30 per trip x 2 (return) = R26,6 x 22 (average days in a month) = R585
Train service:

                         Metro (monthly ticket) = R150

                         Metro Plus (monthly ticket) = R280

Even with the added benefit of travelling Metro+ i.e. first class, the train still appears to be the cheaper option of the two.

While the train may remain the cheapest, the bus offers the more reliable option. Less passenger-related incidents and crime acts are also reported on a bus than on a train.  

While these two modes of transport remain the most widely used, the transport interface in South Africa is changing as the likes of Uber and Taxify have been introduced.

Still, the transport industry do not always offer what you pay for. So, while you are being taken for a ride, you can at least now take the cheapest one.

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