‘STC will collapse again’

BY: Isaac Yeboah

STC will collapse again, why you think this is the way to grow a business? It will collapse again just as it dipped the last time.

The above represents no curse. It isn’t the prediction or the conclusion of any scientific endeavour. It simply sums up the frustrations of some patrons of the national transport operator, Intercity STC last Saturday, May 5. At worst it could be taken as a warning.

They were headed for the Ashanti region, and were awaiting to board a Kumasi bound bus.

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Some claimed to have arrived at the Kaneshie bus terminal before 4am. Just a handful of passengers though. I came in at about eight-past-four on the advise of a colleague in the office who has been so full of praise for the ‘new’ STC and its commitment to improved standards.

On arrival there was no official to speak to immediately, apart from two security men in their duty post who directed the taxi driver who took me to the station where to take me. Ten minutes after arrival a young man in security outfits showed up so I asked him when ticket sales were due.

They would come soon, please sit down, he counseled. Up till now a lanky, middle aged man kept popping his head around, he comes and goes as someone expectant does. 4:30am and still no sign, so I confront this security man once again; are you sure any bus will be going to Kumasi? He offered his reassuring ‘yes’ again. This time he added that an STC bus was already ‘loading’ at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle and that a bus would transfer us there to join that bus once we were served our tickets.

A young lady busily hauled her wares of bottled water into a shop in readiness for business. She served as the unofficial ‘information officer’ too as passenger after passenger made one enquiry or another of her.

In the meantime, passengers were streaming in, some scared by what they claimed were overflowing queues at the nearby VIP bus terminal. There were still no queues or ticket sales at STC. At about 5am, a lady arrived to open one of the tickets sale outlets. She sold no tickets though, and after a while, she assured that a bus was soon to take us to the Nkrumah Circle for onward transfer.

When we pointed out the likely chaos to follow if no tickets were to be sold in the immediate while there was no queue, she called to our ‘lanky elderly’ fellow, who turned out to be a bus driver and instructed him to bring in a bus for the Kumasi-bound passengers to be seated.

At about 5:30, we started agitating. What was going on. The answer was that we were bussed to the Nkrumah Circle. When we arrived there was no bus ‘loading’, it was our bus that was to pick further passengers seeking to travel to Kumasi. Luckily, others ran in from the VIP station, and another bus from the STC terminal brought additional passengers and transferred them unto our bus. Now almost full, there were no tickets yet. A staff of the company who was handed the tickets by the bus driver wasn’t sure what his real responsibility was. Indeed he was not prepared to issue the tickets in the absence of the authorized ticket seller because it could land him in trouble.

About 5:50am, a lady walked somewhat hurriedly onto the bus, briefly asked for forgiveness for coming to work late, and proceeded to sell the tickets. She was greeted with unnerving stares. A lady passenger had an advance ticket and was due 20 cedis change. She wanted this lady ticket seller to speak with somebody at the STC on phone. The ticket seller refused and said she was under too much pressure to receive phone calls.

The passenger alighted to go sort it out at a temporary desk mounted at the place and returned with her change. As she sat down, she shook her head in disbelief.

The looks on the faces of many other passengers weren’t welcoming either. Anger had moulded mounds on foreheads, mouths had turned to snouts, wrinkles capable of streaming floods into the sea etched easily, while passengers ready to let their hairs down wore frightening spouts. Everywhere one turned, you were met with angry chuckles.

This was when our late-to-work ticket seller offered another apology. Her attempt provided the key for passengers to vent the anger within.

Mtcheeeewwww!!! I thought you people have changed from your old ways. Don’t worry. It will collapse again. STC will collapse again! With this attitude? And that came straight from a man in mourning clothes.

Don’t mind them, exactly what they did to collapse STC. The fact that you have managed to get new buses will not improve anything if you workers will continue to treat travellers like this, another man chipped in.

Then there was this woman, almost restless since arriving early on at the ‘STC Yard’. She needed to be at her destination by 9am and had calculated an early set off would clinch the deal. She was so wrong. She regretted not to have taken a cue from the previous day’s experience. According to her, she had suffered the same fate the day before at the Tudu terminal of the bus service while travelling to Ho. There was no ready bus on that occasion, according to her, but they were ‘coaxed’ to wait ‘small’ because a bus was on its way to ferry them. It took hours.

Meanwhile the company's official website lists 6am as the first bus service for the Accra to Kumasi route any day from Monday to Sunday, and why nobody was ready to affirm that schedule is unfathomable.

Eventually we took off at about 6:08am and landed in Kumasi. It was shortly before midday when we did, and I did not forget to thank God for his travelling mercies.