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Jordan: The Dream Train that was not to be

Getting to and from work daily takes its toll on employees, especially in countries without a ‘proper’ public transportation system. Jordanian Osama Al Romoh writes about the resurrected dream train link which was not to be.

One of the original Hijaz Railway stations in Damascus, Syria

One of the original Hijaz Railway stations in Damascus, Syria

The blogger sets the scene as follows:

أين القطار؟ نريد قطاراً.. نريد أن نواكب التطوّر كما دول العالم.. في مصر مترو أنفاق منذ عشرات السنين، ونحن لدينا سكّة حديد تُستعمل كَمَكب للنفايات، المواصلات صعبة جدا، ولا نستطيع أن نصل إلى أعمالنا في الوقت المناسب.. نريد قطاراً.. نريد قطاراً.
هذا ما واظب الشعب الكريم على تكراره وطلبه وكأنّهم ينتظرون القطار بفارغ الصبر لكي “يتشعبطوا” عليه لعدم وجود مقاعد شاغرة..

Where is the train? We want to stay abreast with the rest of the world. In Egypt, they have had an underground railway for decades and all we have is a railway which is used as a dumpster. Transportation is really difficult and we are not able to make it to our places of work on time. We want a train .. we want a train…

..This is what people have been repeating for years as if they have been waiting for this train to hang on to it because of the congestion and the nonavailability of empty seats.

And now that their dream has come true:

أمّا الآن..
جاء القطار الحجازي الذي يربط مدينة الزرقاء بعمّان، وتم الإعلان عنه، وقام “الشوفير” بتشغيله، و “شَمَّر الكنترولية” عن أكمام قمصانهم استعداداً للعمل، وانطلق القطار بـ 6 ركاب فقط شامل الصحافية من جريدة الرأي ووالدتها، أي أنّ العدد الفِعلي للزبائن الذين دفعوا “ربع دينار” أجرة القطار هم فقط 4 أشخاص، بالرغم من أنه يتسع لـ 300 راكب.
However now, with the reopening of The Hijaz Railway, there is a train which links the Zarqa'a town with Amman. The project was announced. The “driver”started the engine and the conductors rolled up their sleeves to do their jobs. The train left the station with six passengers only, including a journalist from Al Rai newspaper and her mother. This means that the actual number of passengers who have paid the quarter of a dinar for the fare are just four people, despite the fact that the train has a capacity for 300 passengers.

Al Romoh wonders about the reason why more people did not take the ride:

قد يكون سبب عزوف الناس عن ركوب القطار هو أن سِكّتَه لا توحي بالأمان أبداً، لذا أقترح وضع لافتة على بابه مكتوب عليها “لا تنسَ أن تتشهَّدَ قبل الركوب”، وأقترح أن يتم تزويد السائق بمايكروفون يصل صوته لجميع الركاب مُردّداً “إنّا لله وإنّا إليه راجعون”.. تحسباً لأي مُصيبة.
The reason why people have shunned the train is perhaps because its tracks do not look safe. I suggest putting up a sign at the doors asking passengers to read their last will before entering the train. The conductor should also be given a microphone which should be wired to all the cabins for him to chant that we will all return to Allah, in case of a catastrophe.
أقترح أيضاً أن يتم تزويد كل مقعد بمجلة صغيرة فيها نصائح للسلامة والأمان وتعليمات للتصرف حين حدوث كارثة لا سمح الله.
I also suggest to insert a booklet with instructions on how to react in the case of an emergency in the pocket of each seat.

Al Romoh adds:

قد يكون سبب عزوف الناس عن ركوبه أيضاً هو أن عمر القطار 95 عاماً تقريباً، ومن المؤكّد أن كفالته انتهت عام 1915.
من المحتمل أيضاً أن الناس اعتقدوا أن القطار سيكون شبيهاً بقطار ماجليف الياباني أو أقل قليلاً، ولكنّ منظَرَه خَيَّبَ آمالهم.
People may also be avoiding it because the train is about 95 years old. It is obvious that its warranty ended in 1915. It is also possible that people thought it would be as advanced as Japanese trains, or a little less perhaps, and that its appearance has dismayed them.

The blogger continues to describe his amazement at the low response to a service that seemed to be in demand:

ما كَتبتُه في السطور السابقة من أسباب واقتراحات كان نتيجة صعقة أصابتني من خبر الـ 6 ركّاب، فكيف نطلب الخبز ونركض ركض الوحوش لأجله ثم عندما نجده نرميه؟
لا أستطيع أن أتفهم سبب حبنا للشكوى حتى وإن لم تكن لدينا مشاكل، فالكثيرون يشكون فقط لأجل الشكوى، وإن لم تكن لديهم مشاكل، يقومون باختراعها، وإن لم يستطيعوا لها اختراعاً، فهم يتخيلونها ويعيشونها وثم يبدأون “الشكونة”.. أردتم تشغيل القطار وتم تشغيله، أيُعقل أن يركبه في أول يوم 6 أشخاص فقط؟
إن أجرة القطار الحجازي تبلغ ربع دينار فقط، أتساءل إن كان ركوب القطار مجاني، فكم قطاراً سيلزم لسدّ حاجة آلاف الركّاب الذين يبحثون عن “المجاني”؟

What I have written in the previous lines are reasons which were born out of my shock that only six passengers took the inaugural ride. How can we ask for bread and run like beasts trying to get it, and once it is in our hands, we throw it away? I don't understand why we love to complain even when we did not have problems, we created some for ourselves. Even when we can't invent trouble, we start imagining it and living under its pressures. You have wanted an operational train, and a train is now operational. Is it possible then that only six people ride it on its inaugural day? The train fare is a quarter of a dinar only. I wonder if the ride was for free, how many trains will be needed to meet the needs of the thousands of passengers who are all looking for freebies?

Photo credit: Flickr user Alazaat

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