More and more people embrace trains as alternatives to buses and other commercial vehicles in the congested city of Lagos. But a dangerous trend seems to be emerging among passengers.
Train operators in Lagos are making brisk business, with ticket sales peaking at some 9000 passengers per day. The operators say they are targeting 20,000 passengers per day to ease traffic and facilitate commerce and trade in Lagos.
However, this move is not without its setbacks. A dangerous trend is emerging on the Lagos mass transit train service. In the last count, at least three deaths have been recorded on the Lagos trains operated by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) report say. The deaths largely occurred when victims hung on the train, fell and got run over by the train. Several injuries have also been recorded but the trend seems to be getting even more popular by the day.
"We are happy the trains are working," said a passenger who preferred not to give his name. "But what is happening is not good. People now overload the trains with some sitting on hanging in dangerous positions. I hope the government will do something about it to address the death cases being recorded."
The most recent accident occurred at the Agbado train station. A passenger was crushed by a moving train during the rush, while the legs of another were broken. Eyewitnesses said the victims slipped and fell off while trying to board the moving and overcrowded train.
Monday, March 12th, 2012 in a two separate accidents on the Ijoko-Lagos mass transit trains (MTT) service left a passenger dead and another badly injured.
Regular train passengers blame the accidents on overcrowding and attitude of passengers who blocked the entrance of the coaches, preventing other passengers from getting onto the train.
"The railway police command had warned passengers against hanging on moving trains, saying that offenders would be charged with attempted suicide. But people will just not listen," says Jide Fagbemi, a resident of Lagos.
He said that in spite of more deaths, life threatening injuries to several people and the warnings from the police, thousands of commuters still hang on moving trains with reckless abandon.
Checks reveal that the supply can't meet the demand in spite the increased frequency of train services from 12 to 16. Hundreds of commuters stand in the coaches and several hundred ride on roof tops and entrances to the economy and air-conditioned coaches.
With the increase in the frequency of mass transit trains within Lagos metropolis, commuters can ride within a transit time of one hour thirty minutes on a one-way ticket of N150.00 for economy class and N500.00 for business class.
A commuter who simply identified himself as Jimoh said if he hangs, he hangs because he doesn't want to pay the N150 for his short route. "Most of the time, I join from Oshodi to Ikeja. They charge N150, the same with someone going to Ijoko. It's too much for me so I wait and jump on the train and go home," he said.
He said if the NRC had cheaper tickets on shorter routes rather than flat rates, it could discourage hanging on the train.
Asked if the risk was worth the N150 he would save, he said "what would happen would happen. I am not scared hanging on the train. Nothing will happen to me by God grace."
Isiaka Adeleke, another commuter, said for him it is just adventure. According to him, he likes the thrills and the effect is satisfying.
He said it's not that he cannot afford the fare but he likes the hanging experience. He also added that as a smoker, he "smokes on top the train without disturbing anyone."
However, NRC managing director Engineer Seyi Sjuwade said pikes would be fixed on the back of the trains to guard against sitting on them or hanging dangerously as many do.
He said congestion and rooftop riding are giving the NRC some cause for concern and efforts are being made to address them.
He said rail mode still a preferred choice because its advantage, convenience, comfort, cost effectiveness, and above all, its safety and promptness but the experience in Nigeria is less to be desired at the moment.