The introduction of the e-ticketing option on the Abuja-Kaduna railway services has elicited mixed reactions from the commuters and the general public. Last week, there were reports in the media of confusion at the Abuja and Kaduna stations following the launch of the e-ticketing option on the Abuja-Kaduna railway, which was designed to curb identified incidences of sharp practices at the two stations.
The reports indicated that some intending passengers tried to purchase tickets from a website which the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) subsequently declared as fake and should not be patronised by the unsuspecting public. The NRC put out a statement disowning the website and advising intending passengers to purchase their tickets only at the stations. This added to the confusion and the difficulties reportedly encountered by some commuters at the stations.
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The confusion that greeted the launch of the e-ticketing service could be attributed to those unsuspecting commuters who purchased tickets from the website in question.
Although the NRC has reported that so far, about 8000 persons have successfully used its portal to purchase e-tickets which they used for their trips on the route, the confusion that followed the introduction of the e-ticketing service would have been avoided if adequate arrangements had been made before hand.
The explanations notwithstanding we believe that the NRC could do with some suggestions on how to further improve the e-ticketing service.
What NRC must learn from this is to ensure it doubles its due diligence in keeping the internal procedure of introducing this necessary step in the running of our railway system to prevent it from being sabotaged. It could well be the handiwork of persons within the system who had knowledge of the impending introduction of the service directing the commuters to the fake website. The NRC authorities should factor in the fact that there are some people within the system who may not be too happy with the introduction of the e-ticketing which effectively puts an end to the racketeering at the stations. Such persons may want to continue to take advantage of commuters who have for long complained and yearned for the e-ticketing option to ease the identified lapses in the purchase of tickets at the Abuja and Kaduna stations.
The NRC also owes it a duty to ensure that the commuters who are after all the ones to sustain the service with their patronage are taken along through adequate publicity and enlightenment on the schedule and process of implementing the e-ticketing option. A situation where the commuters are left largely in the dark about this innovation encourages speculators to take advantage.
It is worth emphasising that the railway infrastructure being built by the government at great cost requires our collective efforts to ensure its success. The e-ticketing being introduced on the Abuja-Kaduna route is in line with global best practices in transportation management. Among other things, it aims at seamless transaction for ticketing and planning of travel at the convenience of both the customer and service provider. The airlines and other services in the transportation sector have long found it very useful in their operations.
With the expansion of the rail infrastructure in the country, the introduction and success of e-ticketing in the railways would open the way for other necessary measures to ensure Nigeria reaps maximum benefits from railway operations. Going forward, in this regard, the goal should be for the government to eventually allow private operators into the rail services in order to offer competitive services to the paying customer.
Accordingly as more and more Nigerians come to use the rail system for their transportation across the country for business and leisure, they would expect value for their money.
This is what the authorities should bear in mind with the introduction of e-ticketing in the railway system.