An Accra-Takoradi bound driver sat behind the steering wheel, fastened his seat belt and said “Good Morning, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Agya Baah, I will be taking you on this journey”.
“Please no quarrelling or fighting in this bus, if you need anything draw my attention, if you want to attend nature’s call just tell me and I will stop for you; I hope we are clear and can set off,” he told the about 15 passengers comfortably seated in his air conditioned bus.
The vehicle remained quiet, then one of the two men sitting at the front ask him, “Is it your own car?” he answered in the affirmative and added, “in the past I have given this car to drivers to work for me but it was always troubles, so I decided to take this job myself and it has been worthwhile.”
The good tone Agya Baah set for the passengers made the four-hour journey very smooth. There was no quarrelling as he said and everybody in the bus turned out to be mindful and helpful of the person sitting next to him or her.
This is not a usual experience when one boards a commercial bus or taxi to any destination within Accra or outside Accra. It is usually a situation where the driver commands and does what he likes, shouts on passengers and he surely must be obeyed throughout the journey.
Afia shares her experience on board a taxi from Kwame Nkrumah Circle to the Ministries; the driver was very rude, immediately the taxi was full, he sat in the car and drove on another route without explaining to the passengers why he did not use the normal route, when one bold guy, asked him to explain his decision? His response was: “Why would you get down on the way, if so then get down now and walk back to the station for a car that will use the normal route because there is too much traffic on that route.”
According to Afia most of the passengers got down on the way, about two stops to the final destination and when she was left alone, the driver asked, “Sister where you are going?” Afia said I am going to the last stop, then the driver replied, “as you can see there is no one in the car and there is traffic so get down and walk,” Afia could not believe her ears, so she retorted “But I have paid the full fare and I am not yet at my destination why do you say I should get down?”
The driver got angry and made a U-Turn with Afia in the car who had to beg the driver to stop and walked back to where she was going.
The attitude of the driver towards Afia is not rare at all in Accra; most taxi drivers will shout on passengers who try to insist on their right, in fact there was a time when a driver of a cab warned a passenger not to board his car again because the passenger had shouted back at him.
Moving from one place to another Accra is almost like a nightmare, a Kumasi based business woman said, when she encountered some of these bad attitudes shown by drivers to passengers.
The absence of an efficient and effective public transport system in Ghana is a source of worry to many especially people living in the capital city.
Till date there is limited regulatory/institutional effectiveness, lack of a clear and comprehensive policy on public transport. Vehicle operators are subject to minimal regulation in terms of the authority to operate as commercial vehicles, area of coverage, standards of operation, maintenance of vehicles and related issues.
This situation has led to freedom to enter the sector and the liberty to leave at will. The industry is dominated by the informal sector and they provide about 95 per cent of transport services but their services are unreliable, uncomfortable and unsafe.
One will not lose sight of the fact that the Metro Mass Transport Service was a very good initiative. Even though it is not as efficient as it used to be when it was introduced, it has helped many people with movement from one place to another.
For instance while Metro Mass Transport bus from Accra to Cape Coast charges GH? 4.50, the Yutong bus takes GH? 7.00. The price difference within the transport system is very wide.
Again the VIP Bus service from Accra to Kumasi charges GH?25.00 while the buses at the Neoplan Station just opposite range charges from GH? 10 to 20 cedis.
However, at times when going for the cheaper option one will have to be ready to be harassed by a driver and their mates (those who help the driver in the collection of fares and prompt him about people alighting at bus stops or picking of passengers).
Comparing Ghana’s transport systems to some developed countries in the world evokes sad feelings.
The Netherlands, a country that can be described as a country of bicycles, has an efficient and effective transport system. Mr Tony Wilkinson, an Official with the Radio Netherlands Training Centre said “in this country everybody bikes; the Queen bikes, the Prime Minister bikes and the Labourer also bikes.”
It is an interesting sight to see in the morning, students, workers and people of all classes riding their bikes to the train/bus station, parks and wait to join the bus to their work places.
Even in the bus, there is so much discipline, everybody is reading, listening to something with their iPods or just thinking, till their bus stops are announced and people file out quietly.
There is so much information displayed at the bus stops and even in the bus or train but even with that if a passenger does not understand something and asks the driver, he or she receives a polite explanation.
The fare is usually boldly displayed and all the passengers file and pay on entering the bus. One also has an option to buy a ticket at designated places and show to the driver on entering the bus.
For lack of a better word let’s say that there is decorum in the public transport system, which prepares passengers for the day’s work.
The sad state of public transportation system in Ghana imposes high costs on the economy in many related way and ruin the productivity of workers.
As a country the way people behave towards one another during rush hours, in town or in the marketing centres leave much to be desired. Most often commuters are at a fix as to how to handle rude drivers and vice versa.
However this area of national development is also very important and need some critical attention: is anybody listening?
Ghana introduced the National Public Transport Day somewhere in 2009, which attracted Ministers of State and other public officials to join public transport to enable them appreciate some of the transportation challenges that the public go through and thus guide the formulation of policy.
What has happened to the initiative and did it yield any result? If yes, can the public be made aware of and educated on their rights and responsibilities?
Ghanaians need some courtesy in the buses, taxi and the lorry stations!
A GNA Feature by Hannah Awadzi