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A CITY woman and her sister have vowed never to use the Gautrain again after they were allegedly detained for hours, questioned by the police and fined R700 for chewing gum at the station.
The sisters, one of whom was excited at the prospect of using the train for the first time on Friday, said they had been unaware chewing gum was not allowed on the Gautrain.
They said they were prevented from boarding the train and taken to a security office, where they were held against their will for about four hours and released after signing a R700 penalty.
They said no one wanted to listen to them all that time.
Pontso Pakkies said they had decided to experience the Gautrain together just before her sister Lebo Sibisi went back home to Durban after a short visit last week.
Sibisi is passionate about trains as her husband works with them and had just returned from a two-week holiday in Europe, where she and her husband had travelled mostly by train.
Just after lunch at the Rosebank Mall, the two sisters had chewed gum to clear their breath before going home to Pretoria, they said. While waiting for the train, Pakkies said, a security guard approached them and told them to get rid of their gum.
They asked him why.
“Unfortunately, there was a language barrier, as we spoke isiZulu and English to the guard. He struggled to understand.”
The sisters called another guard.
Pakkies claimed that after the second guard’s explanation they wrapped the gum in tissues and placed it in their bags as there was no bin nearby.
But just as the train approached, one of the security managers told them not to board, she said.
“He said we refused to throw away the gum and he was going to fine us… he would not hear any of our explanations.”
Pakkies said they were detained for four hours in a room that had no cellphone reception, and were refused permission to go to the toilet or to go outside to make a call to their families, who were worried about their whereabouts.
She said police were also called. Three armed officers arrived, one in a bulletproof vest. But after an hour, the officers left.
When she was eventually accompanied outside by a security manager and another guard to make a call after two hours, Pakkies said, she saw a man drinking a cooldrink.
“This to me clearly showed that the system is extremely unfair and the staff of Gautrain are poorly trained.
“We did not know about this rule and when we asked for clarity, we were treated violently, threatened, manipulated and intimidated.”
The sisters were only let go after they had agreed to pay the R700 fine. They intend to appeal.
The Gautrain operating company, the Bombela Concession Company, said rules in its trains, stations and buses were to ensure the highest quality of standards of safety, cleanliness and efficiency.
Spokeswoman Kelebogile Machaka said: “Eating and drinking (including gum and sweets) is not allowed on the Gautrain and is considered a transgression of the Gautrain travel rules.
She added: “Removing gum from tiles, upholstery and carpeting in trains cannot only prove to be costly, but in some instances may inconvenience another passenger who has to step on or sit on a chair plastered with gum unaware. There are numerous visible signs at Gautrain stations.”
She said there were baby-changing rooms at Gautrain stations, “and we encourage parents that travel with young babies to use these facilities”.