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Opinions of Friday, 13 May 2011

Columnist: Gariba, Chieminah Abudu

How A Metro Mass Transit Bus Nearly Cremated Its Passengers

The introduction of the Metro Mass Transit buses in Ghana is probably one of the best policy interventions in the transport sector in the last decade. Everyday these buses carry thousands of Ghanaians and their goods to various destinations in the country. However, the apparent neglect and subsequent decay of some of the Metro Mass Transit buses in recent times leaves much to be desired. My own experience as a passenger on these buses gives ample testimony to the fact that the services being rendered by these Metro buses is on the brink of collapse. On the 11th of May 2011, I was scheduled to travel to Nadowli from Wa, and for this reason I went to the Metro Mass Transit bus terminal located at the main lorry station in Wa to catch the Wa-Hamile bound Metro bus. At the terminal, a bus with registration number GR 2032 U was scheduled to provide the morning service of the Wa-Hamile route. Shortly after boarding the bus we departed. As soon as we drove outside Wa Township, the driver began accelerating at a rate that was not comfortable to the passengers on board. Subsequently, the passengers complained and he slowed down.

After doing nearly fifteen kilometers of the journey, some passengers saw unusual smoke emanating from the underside of the bus. They alerted the driver, but he would not stop. Apparently, the driver thought he had on board a group of difficult passengers; after dealing with passengers earlier complaints of over speeding. He continued driving until the smoke began to engulf the entire bus, and the passengers began shouting and attempting to jump down from the moving bus. Unfortunately for us, the driver then had no option but to pull up by an embankment. By this time the entire bus was engulfed with thick smoke coupled with cracking sounds from the underside of the bus. At this moment everybody feared the worst-an explosion.

Disembarking from the bus to escape the imminent conflagration was the most frightening experience for all passengers aboard the bus. Several passengers got injured in their attempt to escape from the bus. Fortunately, by some divine intervention the bus didn’t burst into flames.

Following this harrowing experience coupled with previous ones, I have made the following observations in relation to the Metro Mass Transit Company and the services they render:

• The company continues to use over-aged buses in the Upper West Region.

• The buses do not have spare tyres on them.

• The buses do not have simple tools to carry out minor maintenance during journeys.

• The buses in Upper West Region engage in overloading.

• The bus conductors discriminate against passengers trying to patronize their buses for short distance travel in the Upper West Region.

• The use of many inspectors take up several seats that otherwise could have gone to passengers.

• Many of the conductors lack basic skills in good customer relations. • Frequent breakdown of buses during journeys.

As has been noted earlier, the Metro Mass Transit Company since its establishment has helped many Ghanaians to reach their destinations safely. It is hoped that they will continue to render this invaluable service. However, this hope can only be kept alive if the Metro Mass Transit Company Limited takes immediate steps to halt the gradual deterioration of their services in the Upper West Region and other parts of the country. I thank God for helping me to live to share my experience as a passenger on a Metro Mass Transit bus. If the appropriate measures are not taken to address the challenges facing the Metro Mass Transit Company Limited, some passengers of the Metro buses may not have the privilege of sharing their experiences with the world. This should not be allowed happen.