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“Premier Class - aspiring to be a shambles: an account of delay and mismanagement” 2 of 5 bubbles
Review of Premier Classe Train

Premier Classe Train
Attraction details
Cheltenham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
790 reviews
484 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 355 helpful votes
“Premier Class - aspiring to be a shambles: an account of delay and mismanagement”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 10, 2012

Trips like these are, I fear, going to be the final nail in the PREMIER CLASS coffin.

We were over 5 hours late, and in fact, the train never actually made it from Johannesburg to its schedule destination, Cape Town.
It is a scheduled 27 hours overnight trip; arrival time advertised as 16.15.
We eventually arrived at 21.40.
The train didn't.
Some of the problems we encountered were understandable, quite a number of definite own goals, others very questionable central management and safety issues.

Even the booking process is so convoluted / contrived with a never ending series of emails, and (for visitors outside of SA) a direct payment process that would give my bank manager cause for concern.

Johannesburg Park Station would not be S A travel authorities choice of tourist spots, even our excellent taxi driver was very wary of the Car Park.
Inside the lounge we were quickly and efficiently seated in the comfort of the Premier Class lounge; those arriving after us had the joys of a corridor. The train was due in at 14.45; we eventually left J'burg at 17.25. This delay was due we found out later, to problems with the car carrying transporters.
Over two hours late start, and this was to be critical later on in the journey, particularly on the scheduled single line sections, where trains have to wait in "passing loops" for the oncoming train to exit (clear) the next block (or section) of line. We were constantly stopped for 15-30 minutes at a time.

On board the train, the facilities were OK to Good; however the drink, food, and service was "take it or leave it" - all for twice the price of a flight.
Our welcome drink, and a chance to meet other passengers was Orange juice or sparkling wine (no charge and as many refills as possible); i asked for a bottle of water (I am diabetic) and it really was just sooooooooooo much trouble, and i got charged for it.
There were many other examples of this attitude;- there was no menu nor any choice of dinner. A diner opposite was vegetarian, and despite explaining this, on numerous occasions, all she was either the veg that accompanied the meat dish and a small salad that accompanied the fish course. On some occasions the meat was also served............

Whilst at dinner our cabin was transformed into sleeping accommodation, which was surprisingly comfortable. We enjoying looking at the stars in the unpolluted light.
Awoke at De Arr the next morning, to wonderfully wide open space view, and saw wild ostrich and lots of fynbos vegetation.
A change of loco at Beaufort , and that delay in Johannesburg was really effecting us. We also found out that we were now 3 hours late,. And getting later.

Our westward journey encountered more problems : some of which were not the railway fault, like kids in the strike areas of Ceres throwing stones at the train windows, and locals starting fires track side.

More extended delays waiting for single line sections, then pushing through wonderful mountain ranges, and miles of vineyards.

We reached a small dormitory town some 10 -15 miles from Cape Town, and here in local station that the tracks ahead were blocked by a derailed train (on its side ?). This has happened in the previous 30 minutes: the delay at the start had come back to haunt us, so we were trapped.
We waited.
We waited some more.
Eventually we heard why we were not moving.
The derailment was not "PREMIER CLASS" fault, as these things unfortunately can happen - usually due to too much speed, tight corners and in the case of S A a narrower rail gauge than you would have in Europe and North America.
However, Premier Class management subsequent lack of action/ / inability to plan / make a decision was indefensible.
At 7.20pm, with no prospect of getting through to Cape Town by rail, a coach was promised. I made inquiries about hiring a taxi; only to be told that this was either impossible or too expensive (we really had no idea where we were).
Many guests and quite a number of staff jumped ship and left us.
8.20pm came, and so eventually did the coach: we struggled with our cases, from the station platform to the car park, up over and down the steps in the semi darkness.
8.40pm we were seated in the coach in the darkness.
9.20pm our coach finally leaves, having waited for the staff, the stock of alcohol, and annoyingly, the dirty laundry.
9.40pm arrive, by coach in Cape Town Railway Station, which should have been at 4.16pm, nearly 5 1/2 hours late.

I question the wisdom and customer service of Premier Class Management; why could they not have ordered the coaches earlier ? And why not two coaches- surely it would have been much more customer friendly, given the circumstances to have one for the staff after they had cleared and secured the train? Obviously the paying customer actually counts for nothing,.
Customer service ? - anything really is too much trouble.
Miserable pathetic attitude.
Strongly suggest flying instead of using this non service; you can save money and a great deal of uncertainty and frustration.
Premier Class are anything but.
They do not have passenger interests in mind.
I really question whether these problems, and safety issues would ever be resolved before your trip.............

Visited November 2012
6 Thank cherriesfan_9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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178 reviews from our community

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  • Dutch first
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English first
Western Cape, South Africa
Level Contributor
41 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Great fun but in need of an overhaul!”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 4, 2012

We decided to travel from Jo'burg to CT and enjoyed the journey. We were late leaving Jo'burg (90 mins) but once on the train it was good fun. Our compartment was comfortable and we really enjoyed the scenery once we left Jo'burg behind, the publicity bumph and glossy brochure are rather misleading, e.g. we were provided with 2 threadbare hand towels and the promised 'fluffy gowns' never materialised, the train manager, Gary explained that the 'stuff didn't come back from the laundry' - I don't care - they mustn't promise and then not deliver, Gary however, managed to find some somewhere after I made a fuss!
Dinner was okay, but chipped glasses are not (no replacements!) and breakfast could include some fresh fruit - this is SA in midsummer for goodness sake.
Unfortunately due to a derailment, we reached our hotel in CT 7 hours late (without any food since lunchtime) but on the whole we enjoyed the experience and would probably do it again! I do feel that the train could do with a good spring clean - there's not much point in having viewing windows if they are covered in sticky/sweaty marks!

Visited November 2012
1 Thank LP519
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
97 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 77 helpful votes
“Why fly when you can take the train?”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 3, 2012

Having flown south from Johannesburg to Cape Town we decided to take the train back. The Premier Classe service is brilliant value if you bear in mind that you get a night's accommodation plus all meals and a wonderful journey across the Karoo, all for only twice the equivalent air fare.

We started with a welcome coffee in the Blue Train lounge at Cape Town before being escorted to our compartment prior to leaving at 11 am. There were welcome drinks in the club lounge on board plus nibbles and then just enough time to organise our accommodation before lunch. Each couple is given their own compartment with toiletries and towels. In the evening whilst you have your meal, the staff prepare your compartment for sleeping by converting the bench seats into what turned out to be really comfortable beds.

The whole journey is about 26 hours and travelling south to north you get the superb views as the train climbs towards the Karoo. There are several stops in daylight (Worcester, Beaufort West and Klerksdorp) that give you time for a leg stretch if you need it. But the beauty of train travel is that you have the space to wander, stay in your compartment or visit the club car and the separate restaurant car for meals. The food is good rather than great and the drinks (that you pay as extras) at a modest price.

It's a fairly fairly leisurely ride - speeds typically at around 50 mph, or less - but the views are spectacular. You miss Kimberley and the other mining areas as it's night-time and the approach to Jo' burg reminds you that life for many in SA is still pretty hard.

I gather that the rail network is sometimes 'stressed' and the service can be late but we were 10 early into Jo'burg after what was a truly memorable trip.

Others have commented on security concerns. There are none. You are looked after from beginning to end. However it's probably wise to plan ahead for any transport when you arrive in Jo'burg as the immediate environs of the station are not wonderful.

Visited November 2012
4 Thank BiggerAl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cape Town is home
Level Contributor
213 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 137 helpful votes
“Enjoyable but a little rough around the edges. Good value.”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 16, 2012

First of all the website is badly designed and mostly doesn't work. It is almost impossible to book from outside South Africa, as I was when trying to book, so this alone would deter the average non-South African. You have to call an 0861 Sharecall number, these are not accessible from outside the country, and to pay by online banking from a SA bank account as the part of the site that takes credit cards doesn't work. The booking process can be summed up in one word - pathetically inadequate. I was only able to book as I managed to find a helpful lady in the Durban office who did everything for me, but I still had to get someone to pay locally in SA. I emailed management about these matters but they did not even bother to respond.

Johannesburg Park station is a disgrace, the parking area is quite intimidating and anyone not used to South Africa would probably feel threatened by the people asking for parking tips or to carry baggage. Actually it's all reasonably safe but you have to know the ropes.

The Premier Class boarding lounge offers tea, coffee, drinks, and plates of snacks like biltong and nuts, cake and so on, a lovely idea, but it's not big enough and the 'overspill' goes out into a charmless corridor. Poor planning.

Once on board, things are better. The train is spotlessly clean and the staff welcoming and helpful. Compartments rather small but adequate. The dining cars and bar area are comfortable and well-designed and I found the service good although possibly a little lacking in finesse. The food is good, nothing special, but portions small and I am not a big eater. The wine list is limited but good and reasonably priced. Drinks are inexpensive. I had an excellent bottle of Shiraz (Darling Black Granite) for R110, and with a couple of cool drinks and beers the next day my bill was well under R200.

The rolling stock is old Shosholoza Meyl and although the interiors have been refurbished the mechanicals are unchanged, meaning that the poor condition of the track is very evident, with a lot of rattling, vibration, and shaking. The a/c didn't work for most of the trip - good for me as I hate a/c but it would trouble many people. The windows in the corridors and compartments can be opened which is a definite plus.

We departed on time but arrived in CPT over 2 hours late. The train manager kept us informed and the delay was partly due to a cable failure (theft?) at Brackenfell near CPT meaning we got an enjoyable scenic diversion round Stellenbosch and Lynedoch, passing Spier Estate. The 25 hours scheduled journey became 27 hours but it was a pleasant way to spend the time, with lovely views and congenial company on board.

The publicity material is somewhat imaginative in its use of photos, someone's been let loose on Photoshop and it is a little deceptive, but the views are dramatic and beautiful, as is so much of South Africa.

A little disappointing that whilst we spent over an hour stopped in Potchefstroom, which if you've never heard of it, you're not missing much, but went through Matjiesfontein where a short stop and wander round the hotel would have been a great feature.

Overall, most enjoyable and I will certainly do this again.

Visited October 2012
5 Thank Mike340
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
50 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 51 helpful votes
“Relaxing, great scenery- But poor service !”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 25, 2012

Traveled Jo'Berg to Capetown on what was my first long distance train trip.

Overall this is a unique way to see the country side as you travel through it. Its a plus having scenery it really makes the trip as the service was poor.

We boarded the train in Jo'Berg. The lounge was difficult to find. Of course there was a delay with the train. Your bags are delivered to your carriage. The carriages are nice and comfortable and you are provided with a robe, towels, and toiletries.

There is no menus for dinner and no choice ! However they do ask people for dietary requirements at start of journey. In contrast with the brochure and the pictures i must have been on a different train. The wine menu has seen better days it is worn and had peoples own personal notes written on it. The bar has an ok selection of drinks however you will be doing well to find anyone to serve you. We had to help ourselves. The service on board at the restaurant and bar was terrible, the food was edible at that.

However house keeping did a great job. When you go for dinner the bed is turned down for you. A little note for people, when you go for breakfast they put your bed back up and take the bedding away. Personally i would have rather kept it and rested for another while, but you can pull the bed back down. They also take the towels and ropes out and you have to go looking to get more.

Overall traveling by train was great. A note for others this is not a luxury experience the train is run down and this whole service seems to have been neglected and needs an overhaul.

NB- great photo opp's when leaving Jo'Berg as attached

Visited October 2012
5 Thank Hjs007
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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