By Omar El Hyani
By Omar El Hyani
Rabat – Fed up with the service provided by the ONCF, Morocco’s national railway operator, a group of three people, regular commuters of the Rabat-Casablanca line, took notes on all their trips over a period of 45 days, between September 15 and October 30, 2014. Their conclusion: a public service that is more than deplorable.
Low-quality service is the ONCF’s middle name. That’s a given. But the findings of this group put into context the extent to which the service is unbearably ‘bad’. Delays, congestion, problems with ventilation and air conditioning, cleanliness and hygiene, you name it, and it’s a problem.
42% of trains are late
ONCF is adopting a definition of what is considered a “late train”. Using a definition that has also been adopted by the French national railway company (SNFC), if a train making a one-hour trip, such as Rabat-Casablanca, arrives more than 5 minutes after its scheduled time, it is considered late. However, using this indicator, the 100 trains going between Morocco’s administrative and economic capitals have a very high rate of lateness of 42%. 17% of delays are over 15 minutes, on a journey of one hour.
Research points to what causes these delays. The findings suggest that the delays are due mainly to problems of coordination and communication, poor organization, and equipment failures. Even worse, ONCF does not even bother to inform passengers of these delays. According to the study, several agents can be on a station platform but are unable to provide useful information on when a train will arrive or depart.
In this regard, the study used an example of one a train that completed the journey from Casablanca to Rabat in two hours and twenty minutes after a hardware failure in the middle of nowhere. The driver reportedly did not even have the courtesy to inform passengers why they were stopped for 30 minutes. The natural reaction of the passengers was to hold the track and block the traffic while they waited for ONCF officials and a train to bring them back home.
32% of trains lack air conditioning
The study blamed the ONCF for buying trains from an Italian manufacturer who perhaps ‘forgot that Morocco is relatively a warm country and that it would be useful to have windows in the trains.’
The study also drew attention to the fact that, in addition to ‘the tiny windows that are often condemned and impossible to open’, the controller often forgets to turn on the air conditioning, turning the train into a ‘real furnace’.
You will pay full price, you will remain standing
In 15% of cases, passengers cannot find a seat on the busiest line in Morocco. The study concludes that trains should be absolutely avoided on Monday morning and Friday night. The authors of the study blame the ONCF’s lack of action towards increasing the number of trains at peak hours, especially between 7:00 and 10:00 AM and between 5:00 and 7:00 PM.
In case of trouble, the controller disappears
In 31% of cases, no ONCF controllers have been reported to be present, according to the study. In the case of a ‘cattle train’, (a train that is late, very crowded, and without air conditioning), ONCF controllers failed to appear in 100% of cases. The authors of the study explain this as an attempt by the controllers to avoid the wrath of passengers.
Your complaints will eventually end up in the trashcan
One of the most ‘shocking’ findings of the study is that complaints from passengers are not being processed by the ONCF. Seven complaints were filed in a year, and none have received a response from ONCF. “Are they aware that negligence in the handling of customer complaints may become grounds for prosecution in Morocco?” asked the study.
Still…the Casablanca-Rabat line remains the best served by ONCF
The study suggested that despite the poor quality service provided to commuters of the Casablanca-Rabat line, there are other routes that are far more neglected, such as Marrakech, Oujda, and Tangier. These are routes that have even more deplorable conditions: delays, extreme congestion, air conditioning constantly out of order, and even vandalism and security problems in the so-called “first class”.
Originally published in French
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