The service runs between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London on a weekly timetable.
But in the particular case of Van Antwepen, it proved to be an unpleasant experience.
“We booked the train six weeks before the time but the day before departure on Friday the 14th of June, we were told the train was cancelled,” he said.
“We were told we could use the bus or get our money back.” Hoping to attend the birthday party, the man and his family opted to travel by bus as they were assured the vehicles would be Translux or Greyhound buses.
“We just got regular buses with inconvenient seats and very little space. There were no toilets on the bus and it departed four hours late. The bus driver took the wrong route and realised way later. The bus ride was also hot and uncomfortable,” he said.
Van Antwepen, who lives in a retirement home in Pretoria, decided to speak about his experience to serve as a warning that the service could be “unreliable”.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) echoed his concerns in its 2017/2018 annual report, which warned that the country’s long distance passenger train service was “declining to below acceptable levels”.
“Passengers have dropped from 2.8 million in 2009/10 to 465, 647 in 2017/18, whilst trains run have dropped from 6,604 in 2009/10 to 1,777 in 2017/18,” according to the report.
“Both trains run and passenger patronage have dropped drastically at a rate indicative of a service that has totally collapsed,” it