From the 100 buses it started operations with in 2008, subsequently increased to 220, the widely applauded Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) now runs with just 150 buses.
But this is not the only challenge the fleet is facing. CityFile can confirm that several of the buses now lie in critical condition at the Ojota depot due to non availability of spare parts to repair broken down fleet and put them back in operation.
At the launch of the exciting BRT scheme in 2008, there was talk about the idea and possibility of having the Indian manufacturers of Ashok Leyland buses established an assembling plant in Lagos to facilitate the smooth running of the system. This could have guaranteed spare parts, trained competent hands, technology transfer, and of course, employment for Nigerians. But five years into the operation of the BRT, the realisation of this idea seems far despite the successes recorded of the system, and the robust opportunities existing in the Lagos transportation sector.
Similar fate is afflicting the state owned LAGBUS Asset Limited, operators of the LAGBUS buses whose fleet is equally depleting. In the last couple of years, workers of LAGBUS have had to embark on protests and strikes, accusing management of neglecting crew’s welfare and delayed salaries.
LAGBUS which operates on several routes within the state, together with BRT operation on Ikorodu Road, Yaba and Oyingbo, lift close to 400,00 commuters across the Lagos metropolis daily.
But all is not presently well with the BRT system as about 70 buses in its fleet are down, resulting in long queues of commuters along the Ikorodu Road corridor. The decreasing fleet has also led to a situation where the buses in operation now carry more than their required capacities. Majority of the buses have capacities for between 50 and 60 passengers, but now carry in excess of 70.
As it is, passengers are seen struggling to board, and tightly packed on board especially during peak hours; giving a semblance of the era of the infamous locally fabricated buses popularly called “Molues’’. Paradoxically, the idea of the BRT was not only to move passengers faster, safer and neater but with less stress.
Investigations show that unless there is quick intervention, the system faces harder times ahead, as the operators seem not to have perfected arrangement to repair the broken down fleet anytime soon due to want of spare parts. This is as the remaining buses in operation risk same fate with the ones that have broken down.
The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) have the franchise to operate the BRT buses, with Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA), a Lagos State parastatal which enjoys the support of the World Bank, as the regulator.
“I cannot tell you when the spare parts will be coming in, but I know that something is being done about the present challenge,” a stakeholder in the system told CityFile anonymously on Thursday.
Kayode Opeifa, the state commissioner for transportation is however of the view that the long queues witnessed on the BRT routes is nothing unusual as this should be expected in peak periods between 6am and 10am and between 4pm and 9pm. He agreed that in order to serve the population better, the operators should take damaged or old fleets out of the system.
Lagos, Africa’s fastest growing megacity with an estimated 18 million people is the only city sub-sahara operating a BRT system, and had been applauded by World Bank and the United Nations for the feat. But the challenge of keeping the system running to serve the increasing population pokes the operators in the face.