- That feeling of stepping into a train for the first time was magical! A few minutes later, more passengers boarded, everyone smiling and looking round the train. You could easily read some people’s minds: ‘Is this for real? In Nigeria?’
On the 18th of December 2020, I had to be at Ibadan for a friend’s wedding which was scheduled to hold the following day, so I decided to try out the new Lagos-Ibadan train service which began operation on December 9, 2020.
I opted for a train ride because I didn’t want to subject myself to the stress of going to motor parks considering how rowdy they usually are in December and being 5 months pregnant at the time made me crave for comfort for the journey ahead.
Curious to take my first-ever train ride in Nigeria, I started researching online on how to book a ticket and where to board the newly-deployed Diesel Multiple Unit, a multiple-unit train powered by onboard diesel engines, from Lagos to Ibadan.
From my home in Ikotun, I made it to Ebute Metta and arrived at the train station at 2:50pm to meet a large crowd outside the entrance of the Terminus (what is it with Nigerian Officials and making us huddle together in the middle of a pandemic?).
I joined the crowd and discovered we all had to put down our names and show a valid I.D Card before we could be allowed to purchase our tickets. Good thing I was aware of the I.D requirement and promptly produced mine to the NRC(Nigerian Railway Corporation) staff, who was one of a group of 3 staff taking down names.
Next, we had to wait while another Staff called out our names and you had to indicate and approach the gate for your temperature to be taken before you were allowed to approach the ticketing booths (only cash payments are allowed at that time).
Eventually, we waited for like 10 minutes after putting down our names and nobody was calling us in, a few people approached the NRC staff and we were allowed to purchase tickets without our names being called out.
I asked for the price of a ticket and was presented with various options depending on which cabin I wanted to sit in. The minimum fare was N2,500 for the economy class, an 88-seat cabin. I went for this. Of course, the prices for the business class or first-class cabins were more expensive, costing N5,000 and N6,000 respectively. I decided to explore the business class cabin on my return trip to Lagos. The train was to have a stopover at Abeokuta, so expectedly, Abeokuta-bound passengers paid less for their tickets.
Purchasing a ticket took just a few minutes. Ahead, I could see other Passengers as they formed a very orderly queue to be screened before boarding the train. Screening involved checks with a hand-held scanner and you were met at the entrance by a NSCDC Official, who was courteous and firm as he told you what carriage your ticket belonged to.
That feeling of stepping into a train for the first time was magical! A few minutes later, more passengers boarded, everyone smiling and looking round the train. You could easily read some people’s minds: ‘Is this for real? In Nigeria?’
No doubt, the experience, even the economy class, was amazing. The cabin seats, made of high-quality plastic, had green coverings. The economy class cabin had two columns of seats – in threes and twos – with adjustable blue curtains covering all the windows. The interior, clean and polished – with white, blue and cream colours – was well lit. The cabin was air-conditioned.
There were also spacious overhead load cabins, but officials said only one luggage was allowed by each passenger. About four 10-inch television sets, as well as security cameras, were mounted in the cabin. There were also wall sockets for passengers to charge their phones or other gadgets.
About 10 minutes to the departure time, the Railway District Manager for Lagos, Mr Jerry Oche, a dark-coloured tall man, walked in, greeting everyone on board and asking most passengers if it was their first time riding a train.
At 3.55pm, a female hostess announced the imminent departure of the train, saying it was important for every passenger on board to wear face masks in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
A Chinese documentary with English subtitles started showing on the screens. Some musical cartoons later, and some train adverts, then back to the Chinese documentary.
There was visible excitement from the passengers.
In a few minutes, we had passed Yaba and were already approaching Oshodi. Approaching the Agege Station, the elevated view provides a panoramic view of the entire area. One take I had from the different views the train provided was that Lagos was environmentally flawed and was swimming under a sea of sachet water nylon and styrofoam packs used for food takeaway at various celebrations.
My best views on the train ride were on the bridge as we approached the Kajola and Abeokuta Train Stations. The view is breath-taking and no words can describe it. You can just see lush green land mixed with Rivers and Streams in all directions and very few passengers could resist the urge to take pictures on both approaches.
It took approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from Ebutte Metta to Abeokuta through bridges and tunnels and we finally reached the Moniya Station in Ibadan, exactly 2 hours 30 minutes after we started the trip. An announcement came on asking all the passengers to wait until the train hostesses, come to show us in which direction to alight from.
It was a comfortable ride. And except for the fact that the Ebute-Metta station, the only one available for now in Lagos, is quite far from where passengers like me live, it is a preferred transportation mode to road travel because of its many benefits. For instance, there was no traffic on the train tracks, no police checkpoints, no potholes, and most importantly, there was no fear of running into bandits and kidnappers who seem to be taking advantage of Nigeria’s poor roads nowadays.
It’s a ride I would encourage everyone to undertake, at least for the bragging rights of experiencing the much talked about Lagos-Ibadan Train ride.
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