BOARDING A TRAIN IN NIGERIA IS NOT FOR THE WEAK

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The recent petrol hike has paralysed many people who are willing to make movements to many places and cities. Journeying from Port Harcourt to Aba, which was formerly #500 has now been increased to #1,500. This is how it has affected other neighbouring states, with commuters painfully dolling out money to pay the drivers.

For an ordinary business person who often drives through Portharcourt to Aba daily, will be mandated by the current transport fare upsurge to remit at least #3000, which will probably cover the business trip, considering where he or she is going in Aba. This has become a worrisome challenge, because as it stands now, the few foodstuffs which were at an affordable price, will be expensive and may be very difficult for a struggling family to eat henceforth.

With the introduction of the train, another major means of transportation, many businessmen and women, will begin to resort to using it. Sadly, the many train stations in Nigeria has been shut down and unfortunately liquidated for no good reason. If you take time to visit some of the terminals, where these trains are expected to stop and pick passengers, you are going to be appalled by the nature of what you’d see. The considerable number of train stations that function is in a bad condition and it may likely disappoint anyone who has scheduled an important meeting or business engagement from the outskirts of the town.

Noticing that there could be a great difficulty to going to Aba, my friend and I, dashed out on Wednesday morning to make some enquiry about how the railway station at Elelenwo, works. The railroad station at Elelenwo, stood empty of people when we got there. The office was open but we couldn’t find any life there. We stayed for a few minutes to see if the woman who works there will show up, but it is assumed she has gone for a break and for the fact that she has finished selling tickets for that day, she needs to retire and come back in the evening to sell tickets for Thursday morning.

Quickly as we left the environment, a lady who used to sell a few perishable items opposite the railway station, informed us, after we must have asked if the train is still operating, that the train will be leaving at nine. This means, if we would want to join the train, we surely need to be there before nine in the morning. Truthfully, visiting that railway station was my first-time experience. I was not generally informed about its operation. We need to make extra research to know the ticket fee and how it is been categorized, because, throughout my reading, I have come across where they normally say they have first-class and regular tickets. In our more expanded findings, the woman who fed us with the information said that the first-class goes for #400 while the regular goes for #200.

Getting to the train station at a few minutes to nine in the morning, we met a mammoth crowd who were patiently waiting for the train to arrive. We paid for regular, but at a point, hearing what the passengers were complaining about how turgid the regular section used to look like, we asked for the first-class ticket at #400. After a few minutes of payment, the horn from the train began to project. Boarding the train was not a child’s play, you need to struggle to enter, as the train gradually makes a shift. If you are having bags, for instance, you need to keep them intact, to avoid losing some of your valuables. Most guys arrest that opportunity to steal phones and ransack people’s bags. It is just unsafe if you are a woman who is wearing a skirt. Before you can make your way, you may have been tossed out of the way or if you are strong, you may have to be kicking with your legs to gain your entrance. I remembered supporting an aged man with my hands. The way he was struggling made an impression to me that he would be unable to climb the train if not assisted.

The train has about nine coaches and only one was reserved for those who paid the VIP or first-class ticket. I was embarrassed to find out that passengers from Dioubi, Mile 1, Woji and others have occupied the first-class room and you wouldn’t know who pays for the first-class, except if you have to go through their tickets one after the other. Both those who paid for regular and first-class were mixed and you hardly can tell each one apart. The sad thing is that I had to start walking from one coach to another supervising if there is any vacancy left because even the regular spaces have been filled up. A first-class ticket holder was left standing, until a passenger who is to stop at Obigbo, alighted, which created a space for me.

Using the train was much easier. The journey from Portharcourt to Aba took us two hours and seven minutes and at each terminal, the train was meant to drop the passenger. I became sad that after I had paid for a first-class ticket, I was not given the chance to enjoy it. This goes a long way to show that there could be no need to pay for first-class tickets. It is a more subtle way to scam people. And for whatever reason, the use of the train, seems safe and risky, as it will save one from going through the deplorable road system in Nigeria and may expose one to being robbed of his money and other valuables if the person is not careful.

It is just an amazing first experience and I bet you, it is not easy making that decision.

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