Toyota Hiace mini-bus with registration number GM 3977 - 14 might not have been noticed by many on Monday afternoon as it cruised along the Accra- Aflao road. In making the two-and-a-half hour journey, the driver, Daniel Alipue, carried the aspirations of a team of committed Ghanaians focused on reviving a celebrated indigenous brand.
Inter-City STC Coaches Limited, fondly remembered by many Ghanaians as State Transport, is born again although not completely sentenced to death. Thanks to a government intervention that prevented its majority shareholder, Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), from offloading its shares, the company is branding itself anew.
The Accra-Aflao route is among a selected number of routes, which 25 newly-commissioned mini buses will ply under the company’s new Swift Shuttle Service. This was disclosed by Hope Kofi Klu, Station Manager at Tudu in Accra, who dispatched Mr Alipue’s bus.
The company has made arrangements to bring in nearly 200 buses and coaches to augment its fleet. The incoming buses include Setra, Toyota Coaster and Toyota Hiace Super Roof, which are expected to be commissioned by the end of March. Others to follow are Scania, MAN-Neoplan and Youngman.
Parties to the arrangements bringing in the vehicles include the government, which is binging in 45 Scania coaches and private enterprises. The 25 Hiace mini-buses were procured through a collaboration with Smice International Limited based in Accra.
Until the arrival of the 25 Toyota Hiace mini buses, Inter-City STC’s operations had depended on only 22 coaches.
The dwindled fleet size has, however, not discouraged the workers from embarking on a crusade. After years of confrontation with management over static salaries, they have resolved to support transform the company into a viable entity which should be able to pay its workers their deserved remunerations.
According to the Chairman of the Senior Staff Union, Samuel Korley Clottey, the workers have resolved to support initiatives by the Managing Director (MD), Mr Samuel Nuamah Donkor, to transform the company in the shortest time possible.
He said it was only when the company was viable that it could pay increased salaries recommended by the Board of Directors.
Describing Mr Nuamah Donkor as an inspiration, the union leader observed that the MD’s nine-month presence at the company had brought about many positive changes. Among the changes were the prompt payment of salaries from the company’s own resources, the settlement of GH¢130,000.00 owed the workers’ provident fund and the involvement of the union in all critical decisions necessary to revamp the company.
Other innovations were the various renovations and new development at the Kaneshie Terminus in Accra, which include a clinic to cater for the staff and handle emergencies.
Mr Clottey cited the case of the company being the first to be licensed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to examine vehicles on its behalf. He wondered why that opprtunity, which could have been a source of badly-needed income, had not been utilised for many years.
“The fact that plans are now far advanced to start examining vehicles at the Kaneshie Terminus attests to the current MD’s seriousness,” he concluded.
Mr Clottey lamented past practices where a 30-seater coach could be filled with fuel and allowed to depart Accra with less than 10 passengers to Wa. He described as one of the MD’s most crucial decisions, the suspension of all loss-making services, irrespective of their route status.
Inter-City STC currently operates coach services on only six routes internally. These are regular periodic services between Accra and Bolga, Paga, Dormaa Ahenkro and Tarkwa. Mostly twice weekly, the services cater for destinations along routes such as Takoradi and Cape Coast on the Tarkwa route, Sunyani on the Dormaa route and a couple of destinations along the Bolga and Paga routes.
The Accra-Tamale route, which enjoys a twice-daily service, is now the company’s internal flagship service, while the Accra-Aflao route enjoys a daily service.
The company also operates a daily service between Accra and Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire and a twice-weekly service from Accra to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. There are also three services that originate from outside Ghana. These are a thrice-weekly Abidjan-Accra-Cotonou service, a four time weekly Abidjan-Accra-Lome service and a twice-weekly Abidjan-Zabre (Burkina Faso) service.
Plans have also been concluded to start a new international service from Accra to Niamey in Niger. The service will take off when the first batch of coaches arrive.
As a shareholder with representation on the board, SSNIT cannot be disassociated from the current progress at Inter-City STC, in spite of its expressed desire to quit. An attempt to enquire from the shareholder whether a successful turnaround might influence a change in its earlier decision was unsuccessful.