Diary of Lagos Commuter: Excuse Me, What’s Going On?

Lagos hold up (traffic) can be terrible. The bumper to bumper affair can also be really frustrating.
As a result of this, many of us seek an alternative means to get home faster. In Lagos, the other alternative is to take the train. Hence, I joined the train club earlier this year.
Train rides in Lagos can however be a messy affair as there are thousands of passengers seeking to come on board. The train is usually so jam-packed that the number of people standing are usually more than those sitting and when you get down from the train, your body will be like you just rescued an elephant (especially if you were standing throughout the journey). But we don’t mind. No pain, no gain.
On Friday, after a stressful week, I was looking forward to the weekend. I couldn’t wait to get home and get the weekend started. For me, that means, sleeping in till maybe mid-morning on Saturday unlike when I have to wake up and get going by the crack of dawn. Fridays are indeed special days, you will agree.
So, on boarding the train on Friday evening, we (I and my fellow train passengers) got to the Mushin train station around 4.45pm. Unlike when it had to stop for about 5 minutes to allow passenger alight from or coming into the train, it continued to 10 minutes, and then 15 minutes ….up to an hour. Then we started wondering, what’s going on?.

Train passengers waiting at the Mushin train terminal on Friday, July 31, 2015.

Is the train faulty? What is the reason for this delay? Everyone started wondering.
Prior to this time, when I shared with my friends that I have started taking the train, I get comments like “Oh, that’s good, it will save you the stress and all” or something along this line. But their comments are without caution.
“Railway o layole o. Won le fo e je at anytime”. In English, this means “You can’t rely on railway; they can disappoint you at anytime.” But I have been taking the train for about 3 months now and I have not experienced a major disappointment except when it comes latter or earlier than schedule.
On Friday, they showed me they can’t, truly, be relied on. After we got to the Mushin train terminal, we waited for a while and after a some time, people started coming down from the train, since from experience they know it is one of its “mess-up” time. Yet, we do not know exactly what is going on.
After a while, someone who knows someone that knows someone told us that an electric pole/wire have crossed the rain line before Oshodi (the next stop) hence, we have to wait till it was cleared off the rail as it would be dangerous for the train to pass.

…train passengers are still waiting for solution.

After waiting for more than an hour, around past 6pm, we heard the horn of the next train –the one that was supposed to have moved by 6pm from Iddo train terminal (the central terminal for train in Lagos). Under normal circumstance, our train (which left its main station at 4pm) ought to have reached its final destination (Ijoko/Kajola) at this time.
The new train that arrived is an exclusive one. It is the new air-conditioned train that was introduced by the Federal government last year. This was unlike the one I board that resembled Molue (a popular lorry-like vehicle) … where we all pack ourselves in like Sardines. Here is another difference between the two trains — the price. Passengers of the air-conditioned train pay 750 Naira while the regular one I board goes for 230 Naira.

As soon as the air-conditioned one came, some of my co-passengers in the train started grumbling. A disabled man who I sat with in the train toilet (that is a story for another day) lamented that they will allow the “exclusive” train move before us. Although I knew this was what may happen, I was furious. I complained loudly that it is partial for them to move first since we have been waiting for so long before them. One woman even laughed at herself for leaving her office meeting early. She said: “See me o, I sneaked out of the office meeting early so that I can go and attend to some things at home. Now, I am still here by to 7 (pm)”.

Here I am, waiting for the who will give us information.

To confirm the prediction made by my fellow passengers, no sooner than the exclusive train came (about 10-15 minutes), it picked up speed, moving towards Oshodi, leaving us at the Mushin terminal. I told my friend who boarded the train with me (and those sitting were we are), “Seriously, this is one of the reasons why the world doesn’t progress. Just because these people (the ones in the exclusive train) paid to enter a train with a bigger fare than ours, they left us behind here. This is tantamount to when the rich are favoured over the poor.”
An elderly man agreed with me, but said “eh, what can we do about it. We will just be here complaining. No one will do anything about it.”
It wasn’t until quarter to seven in the evening that our train blasted its horn, ‘phooooooon…’, that we eventually left the Mushin train terminal. We had spent two hours on the same spot! Valuable time, energy and expectation wasted! Some had even started spending their weekend reserve to buy soft drinks, minerals and Chin-Chin Iyawo and AKC (the two popular chin-chin at the Mushin terminal).
Now, here is my two-cent worth, Lagos transporters (and indeed in other parts of the country) are yet understand that passengers are customers. Without passengers, there will be no moving train or moving vehicle. If the train is faulty or if a vehicle is faulty or better still, if there is a circumstance that may cause the delay in the journey, the driver or authority in charge of the vehicle should be responsible enough to inform the passengers of what is going on.
To the Nigerian Railway Corporation (the body in charge of railway), we are at the train station for goodness sake. They could have used the same speaker they use for announcing to passengers to buy their tickets to explain the situation to the passenger, instead of leaving us with in the confusion of asking rhetorical questions from fellow passengers “excuse me, what is going on?”
What’s your experience with the public transport in your country or state, I will love to hear from you.

Busayo Sotunde is a prolific writer with special focus on Business, Entrepreneurship, Reproductive Health and other development issues in Africa. Her articles have been published by different outlets including Investing Port and Ventures-Africa.com. She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde