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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Ugly experience on Abuja to Kaduna train by Gaius Tsan

Remember that train that I was so enthusiastic about a few weeks ago? Well I rescind every recommendation I have given concerning their services because in only a few short weeks the standard has fallen so drastically it's appalling.
On Saturday the 13th of August my wife and I decided to take the kids with us to Kaduna to enjoy a few days out of their long vacation. In order to make the trip fun we seized the opportunity to go by train as a family. I should has suspected that something was wrong when I noticed that the cashiers selling tickets who were usually very courteous were acting exceptionally cocky towards customers. After scaling that hurdle the train which was suppose to leave the station by 2pm did not arrive until about 2:30 pm with no apologies or explanations whatsoever but that was nothing compared to what came next.

Before boarding we noticed an unusually large number of people getting ready to travel as well, my wife was concerned that maybe we wouldn't get seats on the train , having used the train a couple of times I laughed it off and assured her that they knew the exact number of people that were supposed to be on board and we will be comfortably seated. As the train arrived, we hopped on with about 5 bags of luggage and walked through 2 coaches trying to find seats but there was none available.Just as we realized that the train had been over booked and we obviously weren't going to be seated the train started moving!
Now I want you to understand that it was my wife, a 5yr old ,a 3 yr old ,a 1 yr old and about 5 bags of luggage, we were expected to stand in that train for 2 hours between Abuja and Kaduna. We weren't the only ones either the train was fully packed with people standing and barely any room to walk through!!
At this point we were disoriented and our kids were in tears and extremely disappointed because they had been looking forward to a fun trip on the train for days.
After a few minutes the train officials had the audacity to walk around demanding to check people's tickets as they usually do as if everything was normal. Alot of people were visibly upset and when someone expressed his frustration to one the officials he rudely looked at his ticket and told him that his ticket read "Economy" he should be HAPPY to be STANDING in the Business class section!!!!
Now I don't want to sound elitist but at least 70 percent of the people on that train were not there because they couldn't afford to drive to Kaduna or pay to take a taxi, this fact was clear by the number of very expensive looking cars that were parked at the train station parking lot as well as their demeanor, most of the passengers were just there for the experience and were forced to stand for a 2 hour trip without any prior warning or an opportunity to get off the train before it took off.
When the official got to us ,my wife who is usually on the quiet side couldn't help it and flared up telling the official that they owed the passengers an apology and not the nonchalant attitude they were taking. This prompted other passengers to raise their voices as well in anger. On noticing that my wife was standing with a baby on her back and was clearly upset the official attempted to make a flimsy apology blaming it on the people at the station and not himself then he instructed one of the other staff to usher us to a small make shift room/office at the extreme end of the train but not before stating that it was specifically because of the Baby he did that but ordinarily it wasn't allowed.
We were lucky but there were ALOT of other people who had to stand or sit on their luggage for the entire trip. A boy of about 3-4 years old was separated from his family in the chaos and was not reunited with them until about 30 minutes after we had taken off.
After awhile the official who offered us the room came in and I asked how they could allow their standard fall so low and so rapidly. He confessed that they had the same problem with the first trip they made in the morning and discovered that apart from the business class section they really didn't have any mechanism in place to avoid over booking the economy class. He said that henceforth if they notice that the train might be full they would notify the passenger and give him the option of standing which if accepted will be written on the passengers ticket.He added that if someone with "standing" on his ticket happens to get a seat during the commotion of boarding he will be told to stand up for someone who was there earlier!!!
NOTE:This train was not designed for passengers to stand and one would have to spend the entire trip leaning on the wall or if you are lucky you can sit on a table at the back of the coach meant for luggage. God forbid the train derails or has some sort of collision it would be disastrous for everyone on board. Essentially the train is now a Molue.
It's heartbreaking how this had turned out and so soon after the launch also this attitude of delivering poor services to people while acting like they are doing them a favour is extremely annoying and should be discouraged.
As far as I'm concerned I'm done with this train for now and won't be returning anytime soon until I hear that some drastic changes have been made.
This also serves as a warning particularly to those traveling from Abuja during the weekends when there are more commuters than other days, from what we learned this is going to be a recurrent problem so please be cautious.

Written by Gaius Tsan

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