General News of Saturday, 7 February 2015
Source: Graphic Online
There was commotion on the Nsawam-Accra bound passenger train on Thursday when part of the train disentangled at Tesano in Accra. The train separated at around 7.30 a.m. minutes after it had earlier stopped to pick up passengers at a stop in Tesano.
While some alarmed passengers began to shout, other curious ones put their heads through the windows to catch a glimpse of the runaway train. This is the second time in two days that the first class section of the train disengaged from the remaining coaches at the same area.
When the chain of coaches in the second class finally stopped some of the passengers jumped out, probably in fear or out of curiosity. “I have never seen anything like this before. It was terrifying,”Mr John Aboagye who said he boarded the train at Dome told Graphiconline.
He said the incident had given him a second thought about joining the train again, especially when he had learnt that the incident had happened on two straight days.
It took nearly 10 minutes to fix the problem. The engine and few coaches were reversed and re-connected to the detached coaches. But the sight of the train’s technicians using nylon sack to tie the damaged rubber tube that joins the coaches together was one that irritated Mary Ahiable, a trader, who said she had been boarding the train from Nsawam for the last 10 years.
“This is annoying. How could they use sack to tie something like that? It looks like they don’t value our lives.”
While admitting that the incident would not prevent her from boarding the train because it was cheaper compared to commercial vehicles, she appealed to the railway authorities to do something about the deplorable nature of the train. It is not only train passengers who were concerned about the state of the train, some residents of Tesano said they lived in perpetual fear.
“One of our many fears of living around here is the fact that this train could one day fall of its tracks. If you watch how it moves on these weary tracks.” David Martey said.
Some of the railway workers who spoke to Graphiconline on condition of anonymity acknowledged that the coaches were in dilapidated conditions and needed immediate servicing to ensure the safety of passengers.
They claimed that the frequent disengagement of the coaches could partly be blamed on some passengers who refused to pay fares and preferred hanging outside in between the coaches.
Those passengers, they said, often stepped on joints that connected the 15-coach train. “If passengers stand on the joint that joins connects coaches, it is likely to cause the joints to become lose and eventually lead to disengagement,” they stated.
According to them, all efforts to prevent those passengers from risking their lives and hanging outside the coaches had proved futile. The Accra-Nsawam shuttle serves thousands of commuters to and from the capital on a daily basis, making at least four trips, but is largely considered a death trap.
It is the most convenient mode of commuting for most people living in Accra and Nsawam, especially, traders who convey farm produce and processed food from Nsawam to Accra each day.
But the state of the coaches qualifies the train more as scrap metal. Inside, the floors are always dirty. Most of the floor boards have outlived their usefulness showing gaping holes.
Outside, the railway tracks are also in bad shape. Most of the steel and wood slippers, some of which are said to be over 100 years old, are also rusted and rotten respectively. Many of them have sunk into the soil, with no ballast (gravels) beneath them.
The situation, which could spark the derailment of coaches, has been aggravated by the worn-out wheels of the coaches. The poor state of the coaches and tracks, the workers said, was extremely disturbing as the company recorded seven derailments in 2013 and five last year.
“Since the wheels of the coaches are worn out, they often touch the rusted bolts and nuts of the tracks and cause them to hang loose and this is dangerous. These are signs that everything is outmoded – the tracks, fasteners and wheels of the coaches,” the sources said.
In spite of these overwhelming challenges, the management of the GRC has managed to prevent coaches from grounding to a halt for the past seven years. However, engineers of the railway are worried that if major maintenance is not carried out immediately, the train service could be halted as a means of saving lives.
“Last two years, one of the locomotive engines somersaulted at Amasaman while negotiating a curve and it took the GRC a month to re-rail it.” “So you can imagine if the passenger coaches had followed the engine, they would have all somersaulted and that could have caused untold fatalities,” the source added.