A popular travel agency in Cameroon is mired in controversy after drivers accused the company of abandoning them following accidents.
While the agency counters the claims, travelers say they have endured many unpleasant experiences traveling with the travel experience.
Several drivers at Vatican Express, an interurban transport agency in Cameroon, have spoken out about being left in the lurch after accidents, citing a lack of support and assistance from the travel agency.
The most recent incident is the driver of a bus matriculated LT 351.
He is reported to have been abandoned by the management of the Vatican travel agency after an accident that occurred on January 4, on Dschang Hill.
The accident left 18 injured and one dead.
MMI is informed that the bus matriculated LT 351 was initially programmed to make the trip to Yaounde from Bamenda since it was in bad shape, adding that the Bamenda – Yaounde stretch has fewer slopes to climb and descend, compared to the Bamenda – Douala stretch.
“The bus was fueled and prepared for Yaounde, only to end up on the Douala road. The bus has been having mechanical problems,” stated our source.
Following the accident at Dschang Hill on January 4, the bus driver was arrested and only taken to hospital days later in handcuffs.
“At the hospital, the driver was asked to pay his bills after he was initially informed by the agency’s management to seek help from his family,” said a family relation of the bus driver.
OTHER DRIVERS SPEAK UP
Another driver who experienced an accident along the Bafoussam – Yaounde stretch also expressed frustration.
“I was left at the Brigade until my family had to intervene, paying hundreds of thousands to secure my release.”
Walters, another driver MMI spoke to, expressed frustration after he had a fatal accident in Mbouda.
“I was asked to pay four hundred thousand francs before I could resume work,” he said.
It’s not just about the accidents; the vehicles aren’t always in the condition they promise, putting everyone at risk, he added.
MANAGEMENT BLAMES DRIVERS
MMI contacted the management of Vatican Express Travel Agency.
In response to the accusations, the travel agency defended their practices.
It argued that its fleet undergoes regular maintenance, and any issues reported are promptly addressed.
“We own the biggest garage in Bamenda where our buses are properly checked after a trip,” said Mr. Diru, the Manager of Vatican Express.
As to the neglect of drivers after accidents, Mr. Diru said, in the Vatican’s 24 years of existence, the recent accident is the only one whose driver has been neglected.
The agency, however, shifted the blame onto the driver, suggesting that he was driving at high speed.
“The company has declined to assist the driver because he was on top speed, the GPS report showed he was descending at 62.99 km/h and a gear of seven. It was not a brake failure,” Mr. Diru insisted.
MMI has been talking to passengers who recount their experiences with the travel agency.
Many reported instances where Vatican vehicles faced mechanical issues, leading to uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations during their journeys.
PASSENGERS are also disgruntled.
MMI equally spoke to about 15 passengers onboard a Vatican bus with chassis number 008400 that left Yaounde for Bamenda on Saturday morning.
They all expressed frustrations as many only made it to Bamenda on Sunday morning instead of Saturday evening.
“At around Bagante, the vehicle exhibited failures at the level of the fuel pump,” said Paul, one of the passengers.
The situation persisted until at a time those on board were expected to arrive in Bamenda, they were still in Bafoussam.
“Embarrassingly we spent the night at Babadjou in the West region, we arrived at Bamenda as if we left in the night, this is torture,” said Helene, one of the passengers.
The particular bus is noted for having technical issues, according to a fuel vendor at Babadjou.
“They always park here, leaving the passengers stranded,” he said.
Travelers on board the bus that tumbled at the Dschang hill told MMI that the vehicle already showed signs of mechanical failure while they were still leaving Bamenda for Douala.
While many castigate the travel agency for not maintaining its vehicles, others say this is one of their first ugly encounters with the travel agency.
As the controversy unfolds, the travel agency faces a critical juncture in managing its reputation and addressing concerns from both drivers and travelers alike.
Many, too, have expressed dissatisfaction given that, after wasting their times and altering their programs, the travel agency did not deem it necessary to apologize to its customers.