Commuters who are using the Bus Rapid Transit buses provided by the Lagos State government are complaining that the standard of services are declining due to poor maintenance and no sustainability culture
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 30, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
When the Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, scheme was introduced by Governor Babatunde Fashola administration in Lagos state BRT scheme, it was lauded by all and sundry as a good initiative. Many residents saw the new scheme as one that would not only phase out the popular rickety molue buses from Lagos roads but also as a permanent solution to the problems of public transportation in the metropolis. Unfortunately, a few years after the scheme started, the standard of services being rendered has been on the decline. This is because of poor management, lack of maintenance culture and staff indiscipline.
In the early days of the BRT, residents heading to various parts of the state would gladly wait in queues to enjoy a comfortable ride in brand new blue and red buses which also had dedicated lanes on the road. Today, the glittering BRT buses have become a shadow of what they used to be and a vivid reminder of the rickety molue buses.
At the bus terminal, one can easily see damaged and broken-down buses. This has reduced the number of buses on the road resulting in long queues at parks. Consequently, many passengers struggle to get into available buses with more people standing than those sitting inside the moving buses.
Some of the passengers narrated their experiences to Realnews. Hamsat Ibrahim, primary school instructor at Lagos Island, is a regular passenger on the BRT buses. She takes the bus every morning from the Ojodu Berger, terminal to Tafawa Belewa Square in Lagos. She said when the scheme started, she always used it to get to her destination in good time. But today, she spends more than an hour on the queue and gets to work late. Ibrahim says the scheme which started as a good initiative, has gone bad because of a poor maintenance culture in Nigeria. She added that the scheme had deviated from the original plan of decongesting the roads, making people to travel faster and at a lower fare.
“We all felt very happy when the Lagos state government started the bus service because it was a very good idea. It is still a good thing but the Nigerian spirit of poor maintenance has crept in. As you can see, most of the buses are not working and many of us have been on this queue for over an hour. I think it is high time the Lagos state government reviewed this scheme in order to make it better and also serve the people better.”
Another passenger on the same route, who gave his name as Denis, said the BRT buses may become worse than the molue buses they replaced if attention is not paid to reviving the scheme. “If things continue like this, these buses will become like the molues they replaced. The operators must find a way to get new buses and fix the old ones.”
The constant breakdown of the BRT buses on major roads is also a cause of worry for many customers. When this happens, passengers have to either wait for the drivers to fix the bus or call the office to arrange for another bus. Realnews investigations confirm that there are many more problems besetting the BRT scheme. There are complaints about the shenanigans of the ticketing officers and the recklessness of the drivers.
In many terminals, the ticketing officers are accused of selectively selling tickets to passengers whenever there are long queues. When the scheme started, passengers were not allowed to stand. But these days the ticketing officers sell tickets to desperate passengers willing to stand in the bus. There have also been complaints about the BRT inspectors who have become jaded and no longer doing their job diligently. In the early days of the scheme, officials used to join the bus midway to the journey to verify passenger tickets but they no longer do that now.
Another problem with BRT scheme is that the drivers of the BRT buses are unruly, careless and inconsiderate of other road users. They exceed speed limits, intimidate smaller vehicles and are sometimes involved in road accidents. There have even been speculations that many of the BRT drivers are former molue drivers who were recruited without proper training.
However, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, said it had started moves to increase its capacity and address the challenges being experienced by commuters. It said the company had purchased 100 new buses and refurbished the existing ones. Kolawole Ojelabi, told Realnews that all issues relating to the state of the buses involved in the scheme is the responsibility of the operators of the fleet. “The thing is, if we are talking about the state of the buses, you will have to meet with the operators who are responsible for that. But I can speak on behalf of the agency on matters that concern infrastructure but not the state of the BRT buses,” he said.
Governor Fashola said recently, during the launching of 100 new buses that his administration was committed to building a reliable and sustainable multi-modal transport system that is driven by the private sector. He explained that it was only by creating opportunity for private sector to take ownership, employ people, and provide services that government could deliver prosperity to the people. He noted that the BRT system was all about empowering the private sector and that the first partners were the road transport unions who owned the old buses on Lagos roads, adding that government convinced them that if they could change their buses the face of transportation in Lagos would be changed.
Despite these challenges, there are those who still prefer to patronise the BRT buses. To such the people, the lower fares and the assurance that the buses will come no matter how long it takes, are what makes the BRT attractive. Stella Isioma, is one of such customers. She said even though the scheme was buffeted by many problems, it had more advantages than the regular commercial buses on Lagos roads. “I prefer BRT buses for my journey. I agree that they have many problems now but these are problems that will be fixed very soon. The good thing about the BRT is that you are sure the buses will come no matter how long and they are cheaper compared to commercial regular buses,” she said.