Frank Kintum who recently travelled from Kaduna to Abuja by train writes on his good and bad experiences and how the service can be improved.
Date was Saturday, August 3, 2019 and I was scheduled to be in Abuja via the now oversubscribed Kaduna-Abuja rail line which has become the toast of travelers on that axis.
Prior to the journey, I boarded a three wheeler from the popular Kawo motor park in Kaduna metropolis for N900 to Rigasa, location of the train station. Fresh from Kano, I was told I had the option of sharing the tricycle with three other passengers and pay N300, but because I was pressed for time, I took off alone.
This decision, aside the comfort and punctuality, gave me the ample opportunity to grab a better view of the scenery, and people by the road side, being a first time traveler on that route.
I got to the station in time and after being on the queue for about 15 minutes to buy a ticket, I was lucky to be allotted a seat for the 2pm ride to Abuja. This meant I had about an hour and half to wait. So I headed for the waiting room.
The room was full to capacity, almost. I managed to get a space, and thereafter, the reality that I was yet to break my fast that day dawned on me. Hungry but not angry, I asked if there was a canteen, and was told by a good Samaritan “you can only buy snacks inside the train”. It was either I bear the stomach challenge until I board or I walk down to an adjacent local market to help myself.
I opted for the later, but it was not so convenient to move to the market with my luggage-a hand bag and a rather heavy bigger bag. I was lucky as the lady sitting next to me accepted to look over my bigger bag while I dashed to the market.
When I came out of the waiting room to walk down to the market, I was surprised to see many other passengers waiting outside, some sitting on their luggage because the waiting room was fully occupied. What if it was raining?
I was able to get to the market, picked suya and masa (a local delicacy), and quickly got back to the waiting hall because though my seat mate had agreed to look over my bag, you never can be too sure.
After over an hour, we were called to board. The males had a separate boarding queue from the females, same as when buying tickets. However, I noticed that there was no discriminatory sitting inside the train.
After manual frisking of passengers’ luggage and body when necessary on arrival, I observed that there was no scanning of luggage before boarding. Workers tired or scanner faulty? I suspect the later.
While boarding, the passenger beside me complained bitterly that the coaches were very hot and the crew ought to have turned on the air conditioner when passengers were boarding. The air conditioners were only turned on a few minutes after take-off.
Seamlessly, moving from one coach to another, passengers bought the snacks and drinks sold on board. There was even tea and coffee for those who wanted. However, I wondered why the tea and coffee service was only done at the VIP coach. Nonetheless, though I was in the regular coach, I never had any issue accessing the VIP coach to get a cup of tea for N500!
The ride was smooth, very smooth and the air conditioning worked in perfect condition. The ambience was very conducive and clean. I noticed that an attendant promptly cleaned the floor when a passenger mistakenly spilt his drink.
And then we were at Kubwa, Abuja. Almost all the passengers disembarked. I stayed on because I needed to get to the last terminal and look at how it is as well as get views from some other passengers.
The about two hours ride came to a final stop at the Idu, Abuja train terminal of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). Next challenge was how to get to the city where I have a hotel reservation.
First Taxi- “How much will you take me to Area 3, Garki?”. “Oga, na N3000 ooo”. I paid N1300 for a two hours ride from Kaduna to Abuja. And now you expect me to pay N3000? After haggling, I got a ride for N2000!Of note is that it was a devastating blow on the meager purse of a reporter.
Why can’t the NRC think on the line of providing mass transit or medium sized buses to convey passengers to one or two designated spots in town to ease the challenge of connecting to the town after the train ride?
On the trip, I was able to gather that though a fully loaded regular coach takes 88 passengers all sitting, the coach is made to carry up to 150 passengers as it admits standing passengers during rush hours. I don’t know if this is safe.
I was also told by some passengers who say they travel regularly with the train that on some trips, the toilets in some of the coaches are locked up, causing inconvenience to them. I also noticed that the security personnel (armed police men) all concentrated at the VIP coach.
All said, if asked to say whether I will take another train ride again on this axis after reviewing the pluses and minuses I encountered, my answer will be in the affirmative because it is secured, convenient, economical and prompt.
Nonetheless, the NRC should continue to look at how to continue improving on the service delivery to its teeming passengers.

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