It has become the “new normal.” The reign of the new Coronavirus is gradually changing the face of transportation in Lagos State. Unlike the usual ugly transportation scene in the state, and also the country, which the late Afro-Beat king Fela Anikulapo Kuti captured as “49 sitting, 99 standing”, about the jam-packing of passengers in commercial buses, COVID-19 has brought about a new order.

These days, commercial buses are mandated to carry 50 per cent or less of their total capacity. Arising from this, several vehicles now run on the road operating as commercial transporters. Still, the cost of transportation has more than doubled, thereby eating deeper into the pockets of the overstretched commuters.

Stakeholders in the transportation industry, however, opined that the present transportation situation in the state further accentuates the need for the government to ensure that the state opens up other means of transportation to the public to facilitate ease of movement.

Such initiatives, they contend, would also entail that proper infrastructure is put in place to ensure its efficiency. Currently, the road infrastructure in the state is overstretched, leading to congestion and gridlock that have become major features of public transportation in the city-state.

For Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu /Dr. Obafemi Hamzat administration, traffic management and transportation was the very first pillar of their THEMES Agenda. In the words of the Governor: “Provision of roads and critical infrastructure remains the cornerstone of this administration’s Development Agenda, known as Project T.H.E.M.E.S.”

So, how well has the state government responded to this challenge considering that it was part of its fulcrum in the present administration’s build-up to ascension to power?

“Our goal is to develop a reliable intermodal system of transportation. That is why we are investing in the waterways and light rail system so that we can move people not only on the road but on water and rail. The blue line will be completed soon and we will have a complete integrated urban transportation system,” Sanwo-Olu told stakeholders.

MASS TRANSIT

With Lagos now a mega-city, the need for high capacity buses for movement of people from one point to another has become necessary. This will improve the turnaround time of the economy and most importantly ease traffic. Besides, to ensure this scheme is well-grounded, the state governor signed an Executive Order restricting the movement of commercial motorcycles, known as okada and commercial tricycle Keke Napep in six local government areas and nine local council development areas. To fill the noticeable space created in the transport sector by the order, the Sanwo-Olu administration rolled out 65 high capacity buses to augment the existing fleet.

FERRY SERVICES

Water bodies and wetlands cover over 40 per cent of Lagos State, with lagoons and creeks accounting for over 22 per cent of this.

According to Sanwo-Olu, solving the Lagos transportation problem requires a multimodal approach.

To give a boost to this, the government formally inaugurated commercial waterways transportation with the official launch of eight speed boats. All the boats have comfortable seats, inbuilt Wi-Fi and modern technological devices that will aid smooth operations and safety.

Three of the boats have 60-passenger capacity; two were built to carry 50 passengers, while two others have capacities for 40 passengers. Also, three others could convey 30 passengers; four will carry 25 passengers while two will carry 25 passengers.

The six routes the boats will mostly ply include Ikorodu to Falomo; Ikorodu to Ebute-Ero and Marina; Ebute Ero to Ijegun Egba, Apapa and Marina; Bayeku to Oke Ira Nla and Falomo; Mile 2 to Marina, and Badore to Ijede.

The launch of the speed boats, which is being operated by the Lagos Ferry Services (LAGFERRY), effectively marked the commencement of commercial operations in waterways transportation by LAGFERRY.

In addition to the boats, a mobile application designed to facilitate easy access to water transportation services was also launched. Stakeholders agreed it was a remarkable way forward in the strategy to deliver an effective and integrated inter-modal transportation system in addressing the perennial issue of traffic congestion on the roads.

To sustain the momentum, more jetties are being built as well as the provision of more modern ferry boats to create opportunities for more private sector participation in water transportation. Plans are also in top gear to double the capacity in the LAGFERRY’s fleet from 14 to 30 boats. There are also plans to build modern jetties in Badagry, Lekki, and Ajegunle, just as the one being built in ljegun would soon be completed. Also, LAGFERRY is set to extend its services to all 40 water routes licensed for Lagos.

THE BLUE LINE RAIL

The government’s integrated mass transportation initiative has also recorded huge progress with the successful completion of the elevated sea-crossing track of the Blue Line Mass Transit project. Construction work has since begun on the final phase. The project is critical to the achievement of the administration’s prioritised pillar of traffic management and transportation in its six-point development agenda.

The construction of the Blue Line Rail tracks was implemented in strict adherence to the state’s Strategic Transport Master Plan, which prescribes six rail lines and one monorail for the long-term strategic goals of the state. The aim is to reduce the travel time through an effective and efficient inter-modal transport system.

Indeed, the completion of the 380-meter long consistent bar extension of the sea crossing for the Blue Line project has heightened hopes about the completion of the project.

THE 4TH MAINLAND BRIDGE

Though the journey of the 4th Mainland Bridge began several years ago, it has become a top priority of the Governor Babajide Sanwo -Olu administration because of its importance to the state and the nation.

So far, 10 companies out of the 32 which submitted Expression of Interest in the project have satisfied the prescribed requirements. The proposed 38km bridge is very important because it is to serve as an alternative route to the Eastern part of Lagos and ease traffic congestions along major highways.

The bridge is to be made up of eight interchanges to facilitate effective interconnectivity among different parts of the state. It would be a four-lane dual carriageway with each comprising three lanes and two meters hard shoulder on each side. It will be constructed with a generous median to allow for both future carriageway expansion and light rail facility.

According to Hamzat, the bridge will provide the requisite transportation support to the rapidly developing Eti-Osa-Lekki-Epe corridor of the state.

Hamzat further explained: “The proposed alignment of the bridge will pass through Lekki, Langbasa and Baiyeku towns along the shoreline of the Lagos Lagoon estuaries, further running through Igbogbo River Basin and crossing the Lagos Lagoon estuaries to Itamaga area in Ikorodu.

“The alignment will also cross through the Itoikin Road and the Ikorodu Sagamu Road to connect lsawo inward Lagos Ibadan Expressway at Ojodu-Berger axis. The bridge, among others, would accommodate cyclists, pedestrians, two service areas as well as an additional pedestrian crossing. The significance of the bridge will be entirely treasured when we imagine what the Lagos of today would look like without the 3rd Mainland Bridge,” he said.

HOPE

Already, the investment in ferry services is beginning to yield the desired results. The Managing Director, LAGFERRY, Mr AbdoulBaq Balogun said the company’s target is to move 480,000 people daily on the waterways of the state.

“With about 1.6 million people moving on Lagos roads every day, we are being tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that we move at least 30 per cent of these motorists off the roads through the waterways. That gives us about 480,000 passengers.

“So, moving 480,000 passengers is our daily target on the waterways of Lagos State. Mr Governor is focusing his energy on ensuring a multi-modal transport system with the abundance of water bodies we have. We are moving people and goods on pleasant experience through the inland waterways.

“The administration is seeking ways to decongest the heavy Lagos traffic and tapping into the potential of inland water transport,” he said.

Experts in transportation agree that with an efficient intermodal transport network, better days are ahead for the state and the people.