The anticipated Abuja-Kaduna train has been launched, and this is not a bluff. Apart from the train actually moving, the train service is littered with issues that could make the train travel unbearable. Consider this post a review of the train experience; the main issues are absence of information and non-optimized processes.
The train ran free for the first two weeks between Abuja and Kaduna, moving at 100 km/h (but would be 150 km/h after the trial phase). There are 8 stops in-between. The cost is N600 for “economy class” and N900 for “business class”. Below are captioned pictures from our trial ride between the Idu station and the next station (Kubwa station); courtesy of Saj.
The Train!! 💃💃💃
Nice Stairs 😎😎
Wait…is this an Airport or a Train station? Hmm 😕😕
I would call it Thomas, but that’s not original. Idu will do. Idu the Lone Train that travels to Rigasa 😊😊
Its obvious that we will leave “IN” time; but it begs to question…will we leave “ON” time? 🙈🙈
Inside Idu the Loner. Standard Carriage…or as we call it over here…Economy 😎
The journey through Idu’s eyes 😊
Arrived at Kubwa! More passengers awaiting to board than expected! 😁
Each stop has a “5 minute dwelling time”
Kubwa Station. Idu’s first stop on its way from Idu, Abuja to Rigasa, Kaduna.
This passenger told me to take a picture of him and NEVER delete it 😂
…And this passenger had live chickens inside his box 😂😂😂. Nigeria Railway Corporation…Prepare for what’s coming 😂
I have been unable to find a reliable way to provide them with feedback, so I shall list the issues, and hopefully direct the relevant authorities to this content, or at least have those interested in using the train services.
Locating the Station
The closest station to the city center is Idu Station, but certainly not the easiest to locate. Idu is the industrial area of Abuja, so it makes strategic sense to position the train station there for movement of input and output to the plants/industries. However there is not a single signboard pointing to the location, even articles that made the launching public did not divulge the location; how could they when the location is has no address nor direction, only its man-given latitude and longitude points. So I stored the address using Google Maps (luckily there was phone network coverage).
It took about an hour to locate the place, after getting into Idu. At one point I became hopeless because even the Okada guys in the area did not know where the station was. All of them boasted with the competency to take me to the rail, which to them is just any point on the train track. Luckily one of them that had been busy on his phone suddenly recalled that he had taken someone to a train station there during the week. He led me there; through 4 round-abouts, then an excursion into the bush and out to a serpentine road. The road had some interesting potholes to keep from being bored of the bush, and the last-mile from the road to the gate was not tarred so that it awakens you from your slumber. On my return, I followed the serpent to a more straight forward road to the main road. Let me save you the hassle I suffered, see the Idu station below (you can zoom in and out):
In other words, no train timetable! There should be a schedule even it was just a trial run. Actually there should be one especially because it is trial run. The idea of a trial run should be to test the machines and processes. However, it seems they have neglected the processes and focused on the machines; in other words they (NRC) are thinking mechanically about an innovation. It is for this reason that it took us two weeks to test the train for 15 mins! I used the first weekend (Saturday) to locate the place and find out about the schedule, then the next weekend to follow the schedule because the trial run did not operate on Sundays, and work won’t allow me weekdays.
A staff I met there told me that the trial train leaves Abuja 8:00 am daily. So it turned out they have a schedule, they just don’t want to share it; it is not even pasted or printed anywhere in the station. Prior to confirming the existence of a schedule, it seemed imaginable that the trains would operate like cars in car-parks i.e. fill in the seats with passengers before taking off.
How does a train service commissioned in 2016 not even have a website for train schedule and ticketing. One would assume, websites come free with every train station.
In the absence of a website, and ticket vending machines, what do you have? If you said humans issuing tickets, that would be wrong since you need humans issuing from a machine anyway. The right answer is: you have a scissors-cut cardboard ticket that is signed with a pen by a staff for authentication. Unless the ticket signatories for every station would be static and limited, I doubt this has any authentication function… but more on that in the next issue below.
At the point of collecting tickets we were challenged to produce ID cards out of thin air before we get tickets. This information was not provided during my inquiry visit; I was told to simply show up on time and collect ticket. I had an ID but none in my travel company had one so… we didn’t plead but they understood it was an oversight on their part and so we were allowed through especially since the ticket we wanted was to the first stop. Other travel parties there had similar issues. A point to note here is that this is about 11 days after the trial run began, which means I inquired from them 4 days after it started but there was no mention of ID card then.
You would expect improvement on anything after 11 days running. Even fat people lose weight in 11 days, even APC probably made an impact in 11 days… how come this is not the case with NRC. If however we assume that they’ve made improvement, then it would be fun imagining how bad the train station was on the first day.
The efficiency of train services depends significantly on the efficiency of processes within the station. The processes are: update on train services (e.g. train platforms), ticket purchasing, ticket validation, queuing in-out, luggage screening, security checks, etc.
Queuing in and out of the train alone seemed a challenge for the Kubwa station staffs (see picture above), and they have the audacity to write that the station stop-time is only 5 minutes before they move to the next station. It was getting to 10 minutes when we left the Kubwa station, and the train that dropped us was still standing; in other words stand-still. Perhaps the station was understaffed for the trial run? If that is the case then it was a bad trial run.
I could not find a reasonable feedback channel to the NRC on how to improve the new trains. NRC has a liaison office in Abuja, but how bad would I want to give a feedback that I would go there? I could not find a email address, nor a feedback box at the station. I was advised to tag the relevant parties on twitter or Facebook along with my feedback but I could not find an NRC account. I shall try the Ministry of transport and aviation. The absence of a feedback channel means the NRC is probably very proud of themselves at the moment; unfortunately.
By the way, does the NRC have the capacity to manage the processes of this train service? I suppose the Chinese companies setting up the trains would continue to service it for now. I don’t know, because this information is also not available. My best guess is that it would be a partnership for a while.
PS: It appears the trial run has been extended, perhaps indefinitely, or as I read somewhere, by the end of July.