Austerity: Train passengers seek ticket fare cut

Passengers in one of the Trains PHOTO: GBENGA AKINFENWA

Passengers in one of the Trains PHOTO: GBENGA AKINFENWA

Nineteen months after the introduction of the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Trains, passengers have appealed to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to reduce ticket fare per trip, in the face of the present economic meltdown.

The passengers, who rue what they term insensitivity of government to the plight of the masses, say there is no justification for leaving it at N750.00 per trip, considering the deteriorating standard, lack of toilets, poor state of cabins and other dilapidated facilities in the train.

When the trains, which ply Ijoko in Ogun to Iddo and Apapa in Lagos, were introduced on June 10, 2014, it was greeted with protests by some irate passengers, who were irritated by the costly fare. They also protested the increase in fare of the locomotive system from N150 to N230 per trip.

The protest, reportedly carried out by passengers at Itoki, Opo Suuru, Ijoko and Alagbado train stations, led to the interruption of train schedules, damage of one of the DMU trains and setting ablaze of the Itoki Rail Station in Ogun, which led to the arrest of suspects.

The Guardian observed that each of the two DMUs has three long coaches, with each accommodating over 72 passengers, totaling 186, which amounts to N162, 000 per trip. Aside these numbers, over 30 passengers are always standing in each of the coaches, due to inadequate seats. They also pay the normal N750 rate.

Though the new trains are designed to offer air conditioned and less congested cabins, heavy presence of security personnel, well-lighted, reliable and frequent shuttle services, Ibidokun Raheem, a passenger noted that from Oshodi, passengers that embark on the train hardly get anywhere to sit, due to inadequate sitting space.

He disclosed that at the time of its introduction, the feelings of majority of the passengers was that within the period of one year, government would have realised what it expended on acquiring the trains and thereby reduce the fare moderately to make it affordable for working class passengers.

Raheem, who lives in Dalemo area of Sango, Ogun State, and works in Oshodi, said he spends between N1, 800 and N1, 850 daily, because he still takes a bike after disembarking in order to get home, noting that with the present situation, he cannot afford it, unless the NRC management reduces the ticket fare.

“Another thing is that since I have been taking that train, it was only once I had space to sit. Majority of us boarding from Oshodi or Ikeja would have to stand till people coming from Iddo or Apapa disembark around Iju or Alagbado, before we could get space to sit. We are just addicted to it because of the crazy traffic jam of Lagos, but it is no more pocket-friendly.”

Mrs. Idiat Ayinla told The Guardian that the high cost of accommodation in Lagos metropolis, which led to relocation of many workers, is responsible for people’s patronage of rail transport system. “Most of those who ride on train live in the outskirts of Lagos in neighbourng Ogun State. Such decision was because they could not afford the exorbitant cost of living in Lagos mainland. So, the NRC needs to make an adjustment in order not to compound our sufferings”

She noted that the management doesn’t even have the welfare of the passengers at heart due to the absence of toilet and other facilities in the train, despite the high fare, adding that in the locomotive engine rains, which costs N230.00, toilets facilities are provided in every coach and used by passengers when the trains are not congested.

“Besides being expensive, the DMU trains are purely for underground rail system. It is for a country that operates underground rail system and not Nigeria with surface system. It does not fit into our surface railway system and it is also expensive. DMU trains do not have toilet facilities because they are basically underground. This is because stations in underground rail system are not porous like the surface stations in Nigeria.

“Every station in an underground rail system is provided with all necessary facilities, including toilets, eateries, banks, shopping complex, recreation centres and what have you. A passenger can get down from a train in an underground rail system at many stations to make use of any of the provided facilities. Passengers no longer need to buy tickets once they remain underground. In surface station, your ticket expires after getting down from a train. Train stations in Nigeria still lack required facilities to cope with DMU trains, “ she said.

According to Mr. Olukunle John, a security expert, he pleaded with the NRC management to consider the present state of the country and ensure that the fare is pocket-friendly. “Obviously, the economy is biting hard and I doubt if the management knows that the bulk of train passengers are low-income workers having barely enough to sustain their families not to talk of the high cost of transportation. In my opinion, it amounts to further impoverishing the already poor masses.

Moyosore Olawoye, who boards the train from Alagbado, said because of the high fare, majority of the passengers, who could not afford and cannot take the locomotive engine train because of congestion, have resorted to other alternatives. “Most times now, the DMU is run almost empty because the fare is too high, the management is gradually incurring losses.”

She noted that what attracted her to the DMU trains is because they only stop at specific stations, unlike the locomotive train that stops at every station. They were less congested and faster.

The Guardian gathered that based on the low patronage, only few passengers, majority of whom always board the trains from Apapa and Iddo are the few patronising the DMU. It was learnt that the afternoon service is run almost empty with huge losses. One of the trains seen last week had about five people in each of the cabins, from Ijoko to Apapa.

At the Lagos Railway District Management (RDM), officials on duty told The Guardian that the new management is yet to fully report and they could not talk on their behalf.

But a senior official who doesn’t want her name mentioned disclosed that they have introduced a price cut, meant for only the “off-peak period’’, only for the afternoon passengers.



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