What did I learn and what are my thoughts about train travel in Nigeria from my recent trip on the Lagos – Kano line? Here is my list of the seven things I learnt and picked up. Some are old but the journey re-confirmed them.
- Systems do not improve on their own. The railway system was still run down, payment was made deliberately hard, coaches were smelly and in bad condition, engines needed checks. If there is no pressure on the Nigeria Railway Corporation to change, there will be no positive change
- When you do not understand why chaos reigns, follow the money! Everything was made ‘last minute’, disorganised and all rush. Looking back, it was just a way to make more money for the staff and touts. There were people joining along the route with no tickets and a whole series of coaches not good enough for passengers that were filled!
- The government has no business in business. Sell the NRC for 1 $ and let private industry run it!
- The railway system has massive upside potential, both for goods and passenger traffic. All the coaches were filled from Lagos till I dropped off at Minna. Unlock the potential and we can take things up
- Nigerians are adventurous and open to new ideas. In the first class section, 8 out of 10 people were travelling by train for the first time and most wanted to experience how train travel was!
- The Abuja – Kaduna rail line is a classic example of how not to run a business. It is heavily subsidised, overstaffed and the people enjoying the subsidies are not the lower class but people that could pay market rates for the service. The cost of the tickets cannot maintain even the waiting rooms! Charge a fair price and make it economically feasible to run. Running it like we are in a 70s era statist economy is not going to cut it.
- In spite of all the issues, travelling by train was great fun. I’ll gladly do it again!
What are your thoughts? Have you travelled by rail in Nigeria recently or plan to? Drop your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.