Fly Me To The Moon

The domestic flight market within South Africa is big business and there is much home-grown airline talent who will try to entice the moths out of your wallet with their services to and from the major (and some not so major) hubs across the country. A couple of these carriers are sea dogs of the game so to speak – the likes of British Airways (formerly Comair) and the various guises of SAA, whether it be Express or Airlink. They get the job done, with a meal included.

New kids on the block are the low-cost carriers consisting of 1Time, Mango, Velvet Sky and my personal favourite budget airline Kulula.com (said with much background fanfare). The marketing genius of this airline alone should be enough to put bums on seats (more on this shortly). In fact, I used Kulula just this morning on a business trip between Lanseria and Durban, which prompted me to write a post about my airline experience.

When rolling oneself out of bed at 4am to get to the airport in time to catch the first flight of the day, it takes considerable effort to coax a smile to my face, especially considering how full Lanseria’s parking lot was at 5am. People – get a life! This is not to say that I can’t be pleasant to others before the sun has poked itself above the horizon, but for those of you who believe the myth that it takes less facial muscles to smile than not, this only ever works past 8am.
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Open Road Tolling. The Future for South African Roads?

Electronic tolling is not a new concept, having first been conceived in 1959. Widespread use of such systems followed in the mid 80s, where electronic tolling operated in unison with the traditional tollbooth and boom collection system – similar to the current national e-tag set-up in South Africa.

Open road tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) roads uses overhead gantries (all given bird names to generate a warm and fuzzy feeling) to toll vehicles according to their class and works on a distance-travelled principle, whereby users are billed per kilometre of ‘freeway’ used. Vehicles are identified via their number plates, or if fitting with e-tags billed to the user accounts. I am not against such systems if traffic is in fact alleviated during peak periods and a percentage of the toll money goes towards developing integrated public transport schemes and road maintenance projects. Time will tell. The Gautrain and supporting bus services go some way to providing a viable alternative for car users who travel daily between Pretoria and Jo’burg – definitely a step in the right direction. Continue reading

All that Glitters is not Gold

I was listening to the news report on the way into work this morning and there was mention of a second disruption to services on the Gautrain in the space of a week. On Monday, there was an ‘illegal’ bus driver’s strike related to (no prizes for correct guesses) – wages. The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU)….catchy nametag – actually stepped forward to condemn the strike by the Mega Express bus drivers who are contracted to the operate the Gautrain’s bus links.

Considering that the first phase of the commercial train service has been operating for little over a year, the Gautrain operator should think about terminating the contract of Mega Express (with an agreed notice period) whilst advertising for another operator. The strike must go against the previously agreed contract conditions? Obviously wage negotiations had taken place when the company was appointed to operate the bus service prior to the opening of the rail service and everyone was happy at the time. I cannot believe that in the space of a year things would be SO bad that this would warrant a strike? Continue reading

Hilux Frontier

District 9 Hilux

Akin to the design of the Land Cruiser and Patrol being at home in the deserts of Arabia, the Hilux must be one of a handful of vehicles which has firmly established its headquarters in the four corners of South Africa – from the flats of the Karoo and the steep mountain passes of the Drakensberg, to the sandy shores of Cape Town and my local Woolies car park in Gauteng. It is arguably the best-selling bakkie (pick-up) in the country and a five minute trip on any road will confirm this. Every other pick-up is a Hilux in some shape or form!

There is definitely something about this vehicle that features in the desires of the entire local community. It is imperative to own one as a South African! You needn’t be in construction or the farming industry to own this vehicle as there are plenty of mod-shops who will drop, raise, spray and pimp your Hilux to your heart’s desire. I’ve chosen to stick my neck out here, but I’m not entirely sure what all the fuss is about as it isn’t even the ‘best’ pick-up on the market (what with the Navara having much more torque and power over the comparatively weedy 3-litre D4-D engine of the Hilux). Reliability in the Toyota, whilst still in the ‘unquestionable’ category, is also not all that it’s cracked up to be! Gone are the days where it could comfortably do 200,000 kilometres without even so much as a filter change (falling standards if you ask me). Rebel! Rebel! Continue reading

The Art of African Driving

Navara

Having grown up in the Middle East, spent time in the UK and otherwise travelled quite extensively, one can appreciate and be in a position to justifiably comment on the fact that there is a definite ‘art’ to South African (and African) driving.

My skills were honed early on in life after firstly passing my test in the UK and then taking to the roads of the Qatar (Death Race, eat your heart out!). Unless you have eyes in the back of your head, decent horn control and tempo and a firm grip on your road rage demon (not to mention advanced dodgem driving skills), foreign drivers in the middle east will more likely than not end up in some sort of accident; inevitably it will be your fault (unless of course you have taken to wearing Arab-like attire and can convincingly pass yourself off as a local). Fortunately, I had a chance to master most of these prerequisites (except the fancy dress part) and thankfully escaped any fender benders.

When I moved to South Africa, I decided the my first vehicle was to be a Navara. This was partly because I was used to driving 4×4 vehicles from my time spent in the Middle East, partly due to my better half requiring a car capable of towing a horsebox, and partly due to the fact that the majority of people in the UK drive around in small cars to save on petrol and emissions tax, i.e it is more affordable to own a bigger car in South Africa. This is definitely a decision I haven’t regretted as you are inevitably treated differently on the road when your are behind the wheel of a truck. Continue reading