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People are less inclined to use public transport systems such as the Metrorail‚ especially if they have never used it before, Pieter Onderwater, a public transport researcher and consultant told delegates at the recent Southern African Transport Conference and Exhibition in Pretoria.

Onderwater looked at different factors that influenced passengers transport behaviours, ranging from socio-economic aspects‚ internal train system aspects‚ and other aspects pertaining to transport systems.

He concluded that a passenger’s choice was influenced by the purpose of their travel depending on whether they were commuting to work, university, school, or for personal reasons.

In his presentation, Onderwater revealed that passengers from a lower-income household preferred spending their money on necessities such as food, instead of transport.

He explained that train passengers had three budgets to consider. These included time‚ money and effort – with the ‘effort’ budget more difficult to measure.

“Effort relates to how easy it is for train passengers to get onto a passenger rail service,” Onderwater said. “Most of South Africa’s public transport systems are not accessible to people with disabilities. And some have to walk three to five kilometres just to find public transport.”

He explained that people were less inclined to use a public transport system if they did not understand how the system worked and if they were unfamiliar with the timetables.

He added that train comfort was also more important to leisure-line train travellers compared to everyday users whose primary means of transport is a train. For these travellers, being seated was said to bring greater discomfort than standing in crowded situations.

Onderwater also said the country could possibly see 5% passenger rail growth in the next financial year‚ although he added that this figure is capped because public train services cannot meet the current demand.