The main means of transportation in Ghana are the tro-tros (commercial buses) and the taxis, but heavy traffic and discomfort usually associated with ...
The main means of transportation in Ghana are the tro-tros (commercial buses) and the taxis, but heavy traffic and discomfort usually associated with these only mean passengers arrive late at work.
These tro-tros and taxis create heavy traffic which leads to lateness at work, which culminates in low productivity, high fuel consumption and air pollution, so the news of Aaayalo – an express bus service coming to ease mobility in the various communities was welcoming.
The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Aayalolo officially started operations in Accra December 1, 2016 after test runs and free rides two months ago. The free rides and test run were to enable passengers and drivers to learn how the bus operates as well as how the system works.
Our Aayalolo bus ride experience
To have a feel of how the new transport system works and how efficient it operates we (Myself and Francis Quasie our cameraman) went to the point of sale outlet at Tudu in Accra to board one of the beautifully branded buses.
Tudu is one of the busiest suburbs located in the Greater Accra Region often crowded with traders and business people briskly going about their businesses.
When we got to the point of sale outlet we were warmly greeted with smiles by two attendants- a lady and a gentleman. The male attendant answered everything we needed to know about the transport system from purchasing the card to how to use it.
Within the time that we made enquiries and the time that the cards were finally handed to us, about six buses have already come to load passengers and left.
It seemed like for every ten minutes a different bus comes to pick passengers and moved within a minute or two. It is not called a BRT for nothing. It was rapid indeed but one unfortunate observation was that some of the buses drove out empty because there were no passengers.
At 12:30 pm we hopped onto one of the buses plying the Achimota route, we showed our card to the validation machine at the entrance and took separate seats. There were only three of us passengers on the bus.
These buses don’t stop anywhere. They only stop at only dedicated stops, they also have their own driving lanes so there were no delays, traffic and competition for space with other commercial buses.
The bus although had an air-conditioner fitted in it, it was not working and there was no Internet access as the public was told.
The only passenger with us was charging his phone beneath the comfortable seat and there was also a small dust bin fixed behind one of the seats.
It was very spacious and had good ventilation – making the absence of a working air conditioner unnoticeable. Our ride was fast and smooth, and within thirty minutes we had arrived at our destination.
The driver played music on the background but when we asked him to show us some videos, he declined, explaining that drivers are not allowed to show videos since it could distract them.
As we stood at the Tudu bus terminal, a man with a metro mass transit card, another transport system that had been in existence since the 2000’s approached the driver and wanted to board the bus but wasn’t allowed because this new system did not accept any electronic card from any other transportation system.
We also witnessed a scene where a passenger having bought a new card was unable to validate it to gain access into the bus but the dispatcher took the card and rectified the issue.
At one of the bus stops, there was a scuffle between one of the drivers of Aayalolo and a taxi driver. The taxi driver was parked at the wrong place but refused to move making it difficult for the bus to park for passengers to get on board. It took one of the bus service’s marshals to calm issues down.
This bus system is designed such that it does not have bus conductors but rather service marshals whose role is to assist drivers at the bus stops. However, we realised that the drivers needed extra hands in helping passengers to validate their cards before boarding and to answer queries from the many passengers who had the card but had little or no information on how it is used.
At a point, we were assisting passengers to get on board and explaining how the card works – this points to the need for public education about the system.
In an interview with ghanabusinessnews.com, Constance Kwami Adusu the dispatch officer at the Tudu terminal said the new transit system operates within three main routes – from Amasaman to Tudu, Ofankor to Tudu and Achimota to Tudu.
“The main aim of Aayalolo Bus Service is to provide scheduled bus services for hassle free transportation. All buses are programmed to come and leave on time,” he said.
According to him all passengers are supposed to buy the electronic card of GH¢5 to be able to get on the bus since they do not accept cash.
He explained that after buying the card, passengers need to show it to the validation machine near the driver’s seat to be validated before they board the bus and additionally they have to validate the card before exiting.
Mr Adusu emphasized that validation of the card is very crucial when alighting because it helps passengers to save money if they are not travelling the whole distance programmed on the card.
Speaking on other packages that come with the bus system, he said the buses are fitted with USB ports which allow passengers to charge their mobile devices.
He further noted that the card is for a lifetime and all that was needed to keep the card running was topping up whenever the money in the account whittles down.
Also on challenges being faced so far he noted that “So far as it is a new service we are definitely going to face challenges here and there but we try and solve them as and when they come.”
Since the transport system is a hop on and hop off type, heavy goods and huge luggage are not allowed in the bus. “It is not as if we are discriminating but we don’t have space for that and we don’t want our passengers to struggle to find sitting spaces,” he pointed out.
We also entertain passengers with music and videos all in a bid to encourage drivers to park their private cars and join us.
We face the traffic and we have one lane dedicated to our buses so we don’t join traffic and that enable passengers to get to work on time,” he added.
The bus starts work from 5:00am and ends at 10:00pm. To ensure that drivers do not get fatigued, they work eight hours daily with intermittent breaks.
Tetteh Issah Sewu, a ticket agent with the Greater Accra Passenger Transport Executives (GAPTE) further explained that the last four digits on the card should be memorized so that in case it gets missing it is blocked immediately and a new card with the exact amount on the lost card is issued to the card holder.
He added that since the card is not personalised anyone who has it can use it.
A passenger, Ebo Kwabena, a phone dealer at Circle shared his experience and said, “I have been using this bus since it started its test run and I enjoy the service, especially the free USB port for charging phones. The port has been a life saver on countless occasions because as a businessman I’m always running around with low battery but I get to speak to my customers thanks to the charging port”
Kojo Graham, a first year student of Accra polytechnic who was on the bus for the first time mentioned that going to school with the bus was fast and comfortable. “I used to be in traffic for hours and I get to school so exhausted but now it takes only a few minutes to get to school,” he said.
“I am happy about this bus service because I usually trade between Amasaman and Tudu paying huge transportation fares but since I started using this bus, my transportation fare has reduced plus I enjoy comfortable rides,” Grace Lawer, a trader said of the service.
Richard Asiamah, a mechanic and father of three said although he has a car, he has parked it at home and has resorted to using the bus since it’s affordable and swift.
Challenges faced by agents
On challenges, Felix Asiedu, one of the bus marshals said private car owners, tro-tros, taxis, and hawkers are difficult to deal with. “They park at the bus stop anyhow and always fight with our drivers over parking space.”
John Sackey also a marshal reiterated that commercial drivers parked anyhow making it difficult for their buses to park and pick customers. He asked for the help of the police in ensuring that other drivers abide by the rules regarding the transport system.
A man who only gave his name as Edward, a dispatcher for Aayalolo pointed out competition and wrong parking by other commercial vehicles at designated bus stops as some of the challenges the bus service is faced with.
This BRT is not the first of its kind in the country; Metro Mass Transit Ltd was incorporated in 2003 to provide safe, affordable, efficient and reliable movement of commuters within the metropolitan and municipal areas and is still in operation.
There was also the Omnibus Services Authority (OSA) that served commuters in the 70s and 80s.
The Aayalolo Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is under the Urban Transport Project (UTP) of the Ministry of Roads and Highways.
Reports elsewhere indicates that the project is jointly funded by the World Bank, Agence France de Development (AFD), the Government of Ghana and the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund at a cost of $95 million.
The reports further note that it is jointly implemented by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Roads and Highways and the Department of Urban Roads.
Tips for the public
The electronic card can be used by only one person to board the bus.
The last four numbers on the card should be memorized to enable replacement when the card is lost.
When damaged, a report should be made to the nearest agent for replacement.
Be sure to always validate the card before exiting to prevent incurring unnecessary charges.
Visit any agent to top up money on the card or alternatively top up with a mobile money service.