By Okechukwu Nnodim | 29 December 2019

Abuja-Kaduna-rail

Passengers who use the Abuja-Kaduna train service have expressed displeasure over the inability of the Nigerian Railway Corporation to begin e-ticketing service it promised to put in place.

Some travellers stated that they received news that the NRC would commence the e-ticketing service in December this year with excitement.

They, however, wondered what was still holding the corporation back from starting the e-ticking scheme, which was yet to commence as of Friday when our correspondent visited the Kubwa Train Station in Abuja.

“Today is December 27 and we are still queuing up to buy tickets, while I read in the newspapers early this year that the management of this facility would begin the e-ticketing service before the end of this year,” Tijani Garba, a passenger at the Kubwa Station, stated.

He added, “I wonder when the e-ticketing service will start and it is frustrating to know that you cannot freely come here to buy ticket unless at a set time depending on when you are meant to travel.”

Our correspondent, who was at the station around 2pm on Friday, observed that the next trip to Kaduna from Abuja that day was for 6pm, while passengers who were on the ground were told that they could only start buying tickets from 4pm.

Another traveller, who simply gave her name as Mrs Eunice, stated that she was surprised that the e-ticketing service promised by the NRC had yet to start, despite the fact that the year was almost coming to an end.

She said, “It is surprising that up until now we can’t buy tickets online for a popular train service like this. I was made to understand that they (NRC) promised to start e-ticking before the end of this year.

“But up until now nothing of such has happened; at least you can see it for yourself. We urge them to start because it is long overdue.”

When asked why the corporation had yet to start the e-ticketing service as it earlier promised this year, the spokesperson for the NRC, Yakub Mahmood, declined to comment on the grounds that he was on vacation.

Mahmood, however, said the Managing Director, NRC, Fidet Okhiria, should be contacted. But the corporation’s boss did not answer calls and did not reply a text message sent to him on the matter.

However, on December 5, 2019, at the National Transportation Summit of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration Nigeria in Abuja, Okhiria told delegates at the summit that e-ticketing on the Abuja-Kaduna line would commence before the end of this year.

According to him, the process had passed through the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Bureau of Public Procurement and was waiting for Federal Executive Council’s approval.

Also in May this year, he told our correspondent that in two months time, passengers who used the Abuja-Kaduna train service would be able to purchase their tickets online.

He disclosed this while reacting to the fact that hundreds of passengers had complained bitterly over the difficulty they faced while trying to get tickets to join the train.

The Abuja-Kaduna train service had also witnessed large passengers’ turnout as a result of the incessant criminal activities perpetuated by bandits on the Abuja-Kaduna road.

Okhiria had said, “It is not only about online ticketing, we also need to have the required barriers to check passengers. And this is to ensure that the solution is complete. So, that’s where we are now. And I’m hoping that in the next two months everything will be in place.”

Despite his optimism in May, the e-ticketing service had yet to commence as of December 27, 2019

Comment:

More examples of why the NRC cannot compete commercially. 

Aside from the bureaucratic barriers to flexibility with its feet of clay, it is not naturally disposed to responding to customer concerns. Indeed if you ask the MD who his customers are, he may as well tell you, the Ministers of Transport and Finance first before anyone else. Afterall, these are the people who give him the bulk of the money he spends. The travelling public are just incidental to the cause. Whether they travel or not, whether trains work or not, whether the NRC makes a profit or a loss, his job and salary are secure. So why should he care?

Now train travellers are not a  significant constituency even of the MD. Most of the hailers on social media do not use the train or know about modern railway operations.

So sadly users will have to continue to endure govt insensitivity and incompetent management of resources that ultimately belong to the same users.

The NRC  has been misleading Abuja/Kaduna users all year long that they will introduce e-ticketing by the end of this year. They have not delivered it. They are not even saying when again. Meanwhile racketeering continues unabated. Makes you wonder if it is unconnected to the delay in implementation.

It is time to reform the NRC. A private operator would have delivered a much better service to users and cost the govt a lot less. Its impact on the economy would have been more significant. All govt is doing is throwing more good money after more bad.

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