Nigeria’s new train offers a strange trip



AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Published — Saturday 9 March 2013

Last update 9 March 2013 2:26 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Before his 30-hour train journey to northern Nigeria began, David Adedamola was quite excited to ride the just-revived service.
In December, the colonial-era track between Lagos in the south, Nigeria’s largest city, and Kano, the second city some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) to the north, re-opened after having been defunct for decades.
It is part of plans by Nigeria’s National Rail Corporation to revive train travel across Africa’s most populous country, using both the tracks laid by the British while building new lines.
The country’s decrepit roads are among the most dangerous in the world, with passenger vehicles and lorries often involved in deadly collisions or attacked by highway bandits.
Travel between Nigeria’s southern and northern hubs is key to commerce, but also retains symbolic significance in a country split between a mainly Christian south and mostly Muslim north.
A recent 37-hour train ride from Lagos to Kano was a hot, crowded and sometimes frustrating journey, but it was nonetheless welcomed by Nigerians who were finally seeing a service provided by their government.
Much of the country’s vast oil wealth has been squandered through decades of corruption.
At the Iddo station in Lagos, ticket purchasing was hectic, with passengers who had never before traveled by train in Nigeria uncertain about prices and routes.
Adedamola, a 41-year-old accountant heading to the third last stop on the Kano line, Kaduna city, secured an “executive sleeper cabin” for the trip expected to take twice as long as the bus.
The bare cell of a cabin included a narrow bunk-bed without pillows, a chair and a non-flushing toilet, and as night approached on the first day of the stop-and-go journey the cheery accountant’s nerves had started to fray.
On most Fridays since the service re-opened, the rail corporation’s director of operations, Niyi Alli, has gone to Iddo to oversee the midday departure of the Lagos-Kano train, because, he said, “this is our flagship line.”
Alli told AFP he was confident Nigerians will turn back to rail, a once dominant means of travel.
“I don’t want to talk about the state of our roads,” he said. Trains are “a cheaper, safer option.”
Despite waves of deadly sectarian violence in parts of the religiously divided central states and an insurgency in the north, Alli said there is still “a massive migration of people in both directions on a daily basis.”
For the vast majority of those travelling by train, the 10,000 naira ($ 63) sleeper cabin was too costly, and despite the frustrations Adedamola faced in the executive cabin, those in the cheaper cars endured worse.
An air-conditioner breakdown in one of the first class cars sparked raucous protests from those wondering why they had paid $18 to sweat for 37 hours when those who spent $12 in the economy class were provided with a cooled car.
Economy passenger Bamidele Ibrahim, a 51-year-old mother of two, was doing her best to cope with the conditions.
With a wide and bright smile, she said she was disgusted by the state of the toilets, charging the cleaning staff with failing “to do their work.”
She was headed to Kaduna and had resigned herself to a sleepless trip on a thinly cushioned bench in a train prone to significant and unpredictable gyrations.
“In this chair?” she said, when asked if she expected to get some sleep before reaching Kaduna, where she moved from Lagos after getting married some 25 years ago.
The train was half-full at departure but gradually filled with each stop, so that by nightfall of the first day it had become difficult to move between cars, with both luggage and people heaped throughout the aisles.
For many of those who boarded later on the route, their tickets had been rendered useless as all the seats had been occupied.
Many complained, but Elizabeth Bukay, 37, who purchased a first class ticket in the southern city of Ibadan, decided to spend the night on a white plastic chair rather than fight for her seat.
The dress-maker and single mother of three was headed to her home in Niger state and, the seat mishap aside, she said anything was better than the bus.
Road travel “used to make me throw up,” she explained.
The trip to Kano had been advertised at roughly 26 hours, but after an overnight derailment involving another train and various other unexplained delays, the journey came to an end 36 hours and 47 minutes after it began.
It was after midnight, and passengers disembarking at Kano who did not have a private car waiting were told to sleep on the platform as the public buses would not return until morning.
Soyinka Abiodun, a police officer on board, perhaps spoke for the group shortly before the train approached its final stop.
“The journey is becoming boring,” he said.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The father of the suicide bomber who blew himself up in a mosque in Kuwait has blamed “evil” forces for his son’s behavior.Sounding confused and sad, Sulaiman Al-Gabbaa, the father of Fahad Al-Gabbaa, said: “An evil hand has sent my son to hi...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Traffic Department has denied that it is introducing new license plates for cars.It said hackers posted pictures of the supposedly new license plates on its Twitter account on Sunday. The department said the news, which went viral,...
JEDDAH: The Al-Haramain Train project is described as the largest public transportation project in the Middle East. This vital and strategic project is one of the implementation schemes of the mass expansion of the Saudi railway across the country.Th...
JEDDAH: The number of marriages between expatriates and Saudis has dropped 84 percent to 1,928 since the start of this Islamic year that began on Oct. 24, compared to the same period the previous year.The Ministry of Justice said that there were 12,0...
JEDDAH: The General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) launched the idea of a project called Watani to link all parts of the Kingdom by air by beefing up activities at important provincial airports.Capt. Abdul Hakim Badar, assistant vice president a...
JEDDAH: Unofficial marriage is a refuge for a divorced mother to lead a married life while keeping her children in her custody but without the knowledge of the former husband who could demand the custody of the children if he learned about the ex-wif...
JEDDAH: Makkah’s health department has set up a committee to verify the sick leave certificates of employees.The department stated it would apply government regulations on sick leave, which includes people providing the address of the facilities wher...
RIYADH: The directorate of roads and transport has registered 20 cases of violations worth SR24,500 in Al-Qassim, where the transport ministry continued its surveillance drive against the companies in the transport business.According to the directora...
RIYADH: The implementation of an integrated health plan to combat MERS has resulted in a sharp drop in cases, with only one out of 736 samples testing positive for the contagion in the Kingdom in the last six days. Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khal...
RIYADH: Muslims must cut traditionally high electricity use during Ramadan in line with the principles of austerity and self-control they are supposed to adopt in this month, economists say.Economist Al-Sadeq Idris said energy use increases during Ra...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry will begin next Tuesday to check whether companies are complying with new laws requiring them to place proper price labels on all their products.It is mandatory for companies to stop using phrases such as...
RIYADH: Minister of Islamic Affairs Saleh Al-Asheikh chaired the first meeting with Yemeni scholars to exchange ideas on how to strengthen their role in restoring peace in their country.The first Saudi-Yemen scholars meeting, dubbed the “outreach sch...
RIYADH: To cope with the growing number of applicants (boys and girls) at technical colleges that reached 126,023 last year, a state-run organization launched an online unified portal to ease the enrolment procedures.According to the Technical and V...
RIYADH: A senior government official from Dhaka, who visited Riyadh last week, has sorted out technical issues to expedite issuing 1.5 million machine readable passports (MRP) to Bangladeshi expatriates in the Kingdom. Information and Communication T...
JEDDAH: Jeddah municipality is keen to provide health and food security to residents and visitors of the city, and they are continually conducting inspections of food stores, restaurants, markets and food storage facilities to avoid any violations by...

Stay Connected

Facebook