Commuters groan in overcrowded Abuja-Kaduna train

By Eric OjoThe train service from Abuja to Kaduna is now the preferred mode of transportation for the rich and poor, no thanks to armed banditry along the road linking these two cities.As early as 5.15am, Friday, the train terminus at Idu, on the outskirts of Abuja had registered no fewer than 400 passengers, mostly students and civil servants apparently hurrying home for Christmas.Same mammoth crowd of travellers was witnessed at  Kubwa in Abuja and Rigasa in Kaduna. Plying the route is increasingly becoming so rowdy and suffocating, no thanks to the large number of commuters now avoiding road travel.Apparently desperate to secure a seat on the first service from Abuja, travellers had formed a very long and snaky queue when this reporter  arrived Idu station at 5.14am Friday.On the long queue, some unidentified persons, who could pass for middlemen, were sharing tickets to passengers on the queue. It was later discovered that such favours are dispensed, at a fee, by some ‘contact persons’ in the station.A cross section of passengers said they find it frustrating going through the stress of struggling to get their tickets.Haruna John, a business man, said the situation is so bad that passengers scramble to buy tickets just to enable them secure a space to stand inside the train.“Beside the dear of kidnappers, the number of people travelling by  train has  increased because of the road construction project along the Kaduna road. This has further increased the queues and more struggle to get tickets”, he said.Many passengers have come to accept the reality of overcrowding train on the Abuja-Kaduna route. This is worsened by the shady activities of some officials at the railway stations who have become quite brazen in ticket hoarding and racketeering.It was gathered that officials sell tickets for a while and stop at a point pretending that tickets are no longer available. They exploit seemingly desperate  passengers who are willing to buy what is referred to  as “standing“ tickets. One of the passengers standing inside the Abuja-to-Kaduna train also shared her experience. The visibly troubled nursing mother who carried her baby in her arms said she was not told that her ticket was for standing.“I bought my ticket at the counter and when I was about boarding, a security official demanded to see my ticket. I showed it to him and he said my ticket is for standing. I almost fainted but I managed to squeeze myself and baby inside a tiny space shared by some many people standing” she said, exasperated.At the Rigasa train station in Kaduna, racketeers were spotted openly selling tickets to people on the queue.Another respondent said the situation is as a result of the yuletide season, adding the trains are overcrowded because many people are travelling ahead of the Christmas and new year holidays.

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