Rail transportation in Nigeria is still grappling with gross operational inefficiencies despite the purportedly acclaimed efforts by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to recalibrate the system as an alternative means of moving passengers and cargo from one point of the country to another.
Within the Lagos metropolis for instance, passengers on the Iddo-Ijoko and Apapa-Ijoko train service have taken their traveling experience by faith as a result of series of nasty experiences that they have to go through getting to their destinations.
Gbenga Ayomide is a regular train traveller who lives in Ijoko and works as auditor with one of the fast moving consumer goods companies in Apapa. To get a comfortable seat on the first train that takes off by 5.00am every morning, Gbenga has to wake up and leave his home as early as 4.30am.
Anything later than that means he would not get a seat, as any left-over seat would be said to be reserved by those already seated for their friends and relatives who probably would still be at their homes.
According to Gbenga Ayomide, he prefers the railway mainly because of its cost-effectiveness. “Traveling by train is a lot cheaper than by bus. With only N230 on the economy service, you can get to Ijoko from Iddo terminus’’.
He lamented that while it is cheaper and faster to move by train compared to commercial buses, there is nothing to celebrate inside the coaches in terms of comfort and convenience facilities.
It is a rule rather than the exception for the authorities not to inform passengers who are kept waiting for hours after purchasing their tickets for a journey on expected departure time of a scheduled train service.
On many occasions, there are cases of many frustrated passengers waiting at either the Iddo or Apapa terminus returning back to where they are coming from without getting back a refund of their ticket fares.
At the Apapa terminus for instance, train movement schedule is a bit haphazard and unpredictable, taking off sometimes an hour and half behind schedule. “
Asabe Daniel, a petty trader inside the Boundary market told BusinessDay that the train service along the corridor is characterised by unusual delays at the Apapa station such that the 6.00pm train takes off as late as 7pm, sometimes 7.30pm.
By implication, this means I will get home very late, which does not augur well with me. Besides, I sometimes close much earlier even I did not make enough sales for the day and that means that I will be stranded until 7.30, doing practically nothing.
Tonia Masor, another train passenger regretted that one of the areas the operators seem to be failing is comfort of occupants. There are no officials to caution or regulate the excesses of some of the passengers, who have a tendency to be reckless.
On motion, there are usually more people standing than those sitting, causing a lot of discomfort especially. ‘’It is as a result of this that a lot of people prefer sitting by the window, where they can easily get fresh air and also stay away from those standing on the aisle’’.
As some passengers pointed out, the evident overcrowding is only an indication of years of gross inefficiency and lack of adequate administrative and governmental attention. They wondered why a train plying interstate route from (Iddo-Lagos) to (Ijoko-Ogun) have insufficient coaches.
It simply means somebody is not thinking or acting right. Common Sense demands that we should have more coaches, more rail lines and more shuttles.