The Abuja to Kaduna train service commenced operations Wednesday but with low passenger turn out, due to the 100 percent hike in tickets fare.
Our correspondent, who visited the Idu Train Station, reports that the usual pressure on the trains weren’t there as few intending travellers were sighted.
Our correspondent also reports that the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) has done all the markings in compliance with physical distancing protocols.
The NRC is also enforcing the compulsory use of face masks and disinfecting travelling bags at the station.
Mr. Victor Adamu, the NRC Operations Manager of Abuja-Kaduna rail service, gave the passengers’ statistics for the first two trips out of Abuja to Kaduna to be 679 passengers.
The breakdown showed that the first trip at 7am from Idu to Kaduna had 396 passengers and the second trip at 9:50am had 283 passengers.
From Kaduna to Abuja, the first trip was 8:45am with 94 passengers while the second trip had just 75 passengers.
Passengers complain about hike
A cross section of passengers, who spoke to our correspondent, lauded the protocols put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but complained about the hike in ticket prices, describing it as unfair.
A traveller, Mairo Hassan, noted that “the increase in fares is not in the interest of Nigerians as many can’t afford it, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is down.”
“You can see the crowd now.
“If it were before, the whole place would be filled but now we are not even up to one coach so they need to look into it and find solution in the interest of everybody,” she said.
Another passenger, Zeenat Ahmed, said it was unfair for the government to increase the fares because everyone is struggling now with the pandemic and bad economy.
“So, instead of putting everything on the passengers, the parties should lose 50-50.
“They shouldn’t have put the price at N3000.
“Initially, I was paying 2500 for business class coach but now it’s N6000 for business class.
“The roads are very bad, so passengers will rather pay the money to go but some people can’t pay now,” she noted.
Ameachi says no subsidy
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Ameachi, who also came to the station to see the compliance with the protocols and reacting to the hike in fair, told journalists the government had declined to subsidize the seats that will be empty for the physical distancing protocol.
“There is an increase because we should be able to pay the running cost.
“If you don’t want us to run, then we stop but if we must run, the fare has to go up.
“The most important thing is your safety,” he said.
“If in a coach of 88 passengers, you have about 56 passengers, that means you are loosing money.
“If we are making N120 million before and we are making less than N60 million and running cost is about N90 million to N100 million, there are two things that can be done either we increase the fares or government subsidize and we gave government the opportunity but there is no money so government can’t subsidize,” he explained.
He also ordered the NRC to commence, at least, 1hr:30min frequency in train operations.