My frustration levels rose with every tick of the second hand on my watch. 7:45 in the morning and I was almost soaked. My feet were on fire and I was tired from holding on for dear life. Grasping the railings above wasn’t really necessary, though. After all, the metro bus I was in had moved a grand total of two feet in the last two minutes. I was resigned to arriving at work after 8:30 and missing breakfast. If these were supposed to be the answer to the traffic congestion in Accra, the Metro Mass Transit buses – or Kufuor Buses – have let me down. Woefully.
The route from East Legon to Accra Central is usually not blessed with the relative luxury of the Kufuor Bus. Occasionally, one comes to pass, but on any regular morning, the trotros roam these streets as king. True, the fare is a few pesewas cheaper but that’s where the advantage ends. The Kufuor Bus isn’t exactly known for its comfort. The acres of space available means a lot more passengers can fit into each bus, provided they are willing to stand. This particular morning, stuck in the East Legon traffic between Mensvic Hotel and Emmanuel Eye Centre, I had almost fallen flat on my bottom when the bus had lurched forward in a rare few seconds of motion. Later on, I would be caught by a sea of human beings, going face-first into the damp armpit of the man standing in front of me.
Soon, I was kicking myself in regret as I saw all the unruly trotros around me taking the side roads, forming an unauthorized lane, and doing anything that their battered cars would allow. Unfortunately, the Kufuor Bus is too big and too conspicuous to be undisciplined. We crawled along obediently like we were teacher’s pets, while energy drained away with every gallon of sweat that gushed from my body. We were at the mercy of the treacherous African sun, and all we could do was wait.
The evolution of the Kufuor Bus is interesting. One morning in the earlier part of the decade, we woke up to see new buses on the roads. In their bid to revolutionize public transport and give Accra some semblance to a modern city on the move, the government of the day imported a few red double-decker buses salvaged from the scrap heaps of Transport for London. It looked like the trotro was on a one-way trip to extinction.
The problem with these Auntie Dede buses was that, coming from London, they were right-hand drive. This meant the exit was at the left side of the bus, and that passengers would be getting in and out right in the middle of the road, so were in danger of landing right in the path of an oncoming motorbike or of facing the wrath of an orange seller for blocking her path (or spilling her wares).
With time, the red ricketies gave way to yellow buses and orange buses. A good number of them have been parked permanently at their yard near the Kaneshie Market. So much for replacing trotros with shiny buses to dominate our roads. Not too long ago on radio, I heard a particularly irritating radio ad assuring the public of a Bus Rapid Transit system in Accra. Only God knows what new stories will be spawned from this next stage of the Kufuor Bus’s evolution.
Sitting is a luxury by all intents and purposes. A few years ago, I saw a young man gleefully wink at his friend while happily mashed behind a woman. With plenty of standing room and with commuters jammed together like cattle, there have been many such misdeeds on these buses. Another woman once tripped over a bale of clothes and fell, giving a bit too much garment detail. Her embarrassment was evident. And then, the standing room in the Kufuor Bus means on a hot and humid day all the raised arms can produce quite a potpourri of smells.
So, share with us what experiences you’ve had on the Kufuor Bus. Have people attempted to travel without paying? Pick-pockets busy at work? I’m sure you have dozens of interested tales to tell. Let’s hear them.
It wasn’t until we got to Cal Bank that a seat became available, just one stop before Ridge. Even then, I had to make sure there were no pregnant women or senior citizens who would rob me of my relief. By then, however, the damage had already been done. I could hardly feel my legs, my breathing was laboured after my morning travails, and my hand had almost fossilized around the hand railing I was grasping. Kufuor Bus? No, thank you.