Cross Country prides itself on its website as one of the best transport companies in the country having won the “National Bus Operator of the Year Award along with other accolades by renowned bodies”, even though the year is not stated. The organisers of this award certainly never travelled with Cross Country. If they did, they wouldn’t have given them such award no matter the criteria used for the selection of winners.
The only thing I can commend Cross Country for is the neat appearance of their drivers. They don’t look like the drivers of most transport companies who look like thugs.
I have had cause to travel with Cross Country twice in the past and in both cases I was disappointed. A journey of nine hours could take forever, especially when the takeoff point is Lagos. In both cases the buses don’t leave early and when they did, they had to stop at some point along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to wait for other Cross Country buses coming from other parts of Lagos. When they arrived, the ritual of exchanging passengers began. So much time was wasted. Not only that, the air conditioners were never used as promised despite the high fare.
After being disappointed twice I stopped patronising the company for many years. However, I changed my mind recently, thinking that their services must have improved given the stiff competition in the market. I was wrong.
On Sunday, November 29, I was at the Yaba bus station of Cross Country to take a vehicle to Abakaliki in Ebonyi State. I planned to take another vehicle from Abakaliki to Ugep in Cross River State. I was told the bus, whose final destination was Ikom in Cross River State, would leave the station by 7:30a.m., but it was one and half hours late. When we got to Shagamu junction, the driver pulled over and parked in front of an eatery without telling us why we were waiting. When we asked why he said he was waiting for one passenger. We endured another one hour wait before the passenger was brought in by another Cross Country vehicle. Oh, the usual passenger-exchange ritual.
By 3p.m. we were nowhere near Benin and the passengers became apprehensive. Eventually we got to Abakaliki by 11p.m. so I could not get down because everywhere was deserted; no human being or vehicle in sight that could take me to Ugep. I had to continue the journey to Ikom. In fact the vehicle was forced to stop 16k.m. to Ikom because there was no more fuel in it. We were all scared because we were just in the middle of nowhere, thick forest on both sides of the road.
When the driver called their manager at Ikom on phone and told him about the problem, he said it was a wrong number. One of the passengers had to call her husband who eventually called the manager and warned him that he would be held responsible should anything happen to his wife and other passengers stranded on the road. This threat was what jolted him out of the comfort of his bed. Eventually he brought some fuel in a jerry can for us. We got to Ikom at about 1:30a.m the following day.
The fact that we could not make Lagos to Ikom same day was not even the only issue. The bus was too old for that kind of journey. The air conditioning system was bad and never used despite the fact that it was part of the bargain. I learnt from other passengers that Cross Country is fond of putting that particular bus on the Lagos-Ikom route and that they have complained all to no avail. When I asked one of them why she keeps patronising Cross Country when she is not satisfied with the quality of their service, she said not many buses ply that route. The only alternative for her and others would be to take a bus to Abakaliki and then another vehicle to Ikom or Ogoja.
As for me, I have told my family members never to make the mistake of travelling with Cross Country. My advice to the owners of that company is for them to put their acts together if they want to still remain relevant in the transport business.
Henrietta Simon, Ugep