Watch Out, VIP...Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo Writes

Admiration is a very short-lived passion that immediately decays upon growing familiar with its object.’ Joseph Addison Operators of the VIP Transport Service have won the admiration and confidence of most people travelling between Accra and Kumasi. No wonder the station is a beehive of human movement round the clock. Passengers of the VIP Transport Company expect to receive prompt service and safety on the road. While passengers throng the VIP station, one could observe that there are buses at other stations crying for passengers in vain. It is most profound in Kumasi where many of the transport services operate from the same spot. That is why those who manage the VIP Transport Service must not take their passengers for granted. It must be noted that the VIP is not a novelty. Those of us who are old enough can recollect the State Transport Company, which was noted for its punctuality and safety. Today, passengers have deserted and abandoned it, although its capacity to guarantee safety has not been questioned. Not too long ago, the O&A Transport Service enjoyed high patronage on the Accra-Kumasi route. M Plaza has had its turn but sometime back, I personally travelled on an M Plaza bus which left the terminal of the transport company to the main Neoplan Station to compete with GPRTU vehicles for passengers. That is why I am drawing the attention of the management of the VIP Transport Service to not overlook anything that is likely to erode the trust and confidence of the public. They should not forget that VIP is not the cheapest, since there are buses which charge GH¢ 20 or less from Accra/Kumasi, while VIP charges GH¢35. The critical factor is that with the latest accident involving two VIP buses and the concomitant 13 fatalities, the faith and trust that passengers have in VIP buses and drivers that their safety is guaranteed has been tinkered with. Something has to be done to assure the public that the latest accident is an aberration. Within the past two weeks, I have been a victim of the underhand dealings that go on at the VIP station in Accra when there is a lack of vehicles. There are many of the passengers who dutifully join the queue. But there are many others who exploit the situation with willing VIP staff members who continuously enter the ticketing office and come out as many times as possible. And often as the queue moves, passengers realise that the ticket numbers they get do not reflect their position in the queue. For instance, each bus carries 31 passengers. Therefore, the assumption is that if you happen to be number 15 in the queue, then you must get a ticket on the same bus. When that does not happen, there is intense agitation and uproar, causing commotion. Sometimes, the reaction of the VIP staff is detestable as they show extreme arrogance. That enables unruly passengers to jump or disrupt the queue, forcing otherwise gentlemen and ladies to lose their self-control. Some of the staff, because they wear VIP T-shirts, even go to the extent of suggesting that if you cannot tolerate them, you can go to another station. They need to be trained on customer care. It becomes intolerable for some of us who might have parked our vehicles at the station to join the passenger bus because one is too tired to drive to Kumasi. There is another issue. The normal sequence is that luggage must be loaded before or at the same time that passengers are boarding the bus. However, at the VIP station, sometimes long after passengers have entered the bus, they would be looking for luggage. This creates anxiety and leads to some passengers getting down such that when finally the bus is about to leave, the drivers’ mates will be shouting for such passengers. There was an incident which happened last Sunday that must be brought to the attention of the management of the company. On the way from Kumasi before Konongo, there had been an accident and a number of vehicles had parked. There was in front of us a fuel tanker with flames from the engine. Our VIP bus driver failed to stop and was moving forward. A few daring passengers questioned why he had not stopped since the tanker could explode but the driver retorted that he wanted to get closer. However, he stopped and his mate quickly picked a fire extinguisher and rushed to help put out the flames. When all the vehicles started to move, our driver did not do so and muttered something that he would wait until the tanker was completely burnt. Quite naturally, some of the passengers poured insults on him. The fact is, it was needless for him to have made that remark.