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LAGOSIANS RETURN TO BOAT RIDE........As Road Congestion Persists

Water transport gains on back of congested Lagos roads

…monthly ridership increases to 2m

The business and public transportation dynamics are changing in Lagos, especially within and around Apapa, as the rehabilitation of the collapsed Ijora-Wharf road breaks through, after the Federal Government negotiated itself out of responsibility, and handed over to the private sector about a month ago.

A significant reduction in the number of private vehicles inward Apapa by road has been noticed, as many car owners now park their vehicles outside the port community, in places like the National Stadium, National Arts Theatre, and CMS, to seek alternative means of entering Apapa.

Several companies are also considering alternative facilities for their staff outside Apapa, in the fear that the road construction which is to last for one year, will seriously impact their businesses.

Already, a section of the Ijora-bound lane, from Airways bus stop towards Area ‘B’ Police Command, has been cordoned off, to allow heavy-duty machinery work on the drainage system, resulting in worsening traffic gridlocks inward Apapa.

The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has yet to unveil a traffic management plan and alternative routes for motorists. Olawale Musa, the general manager of LASTMA said the agency was waiting for palliative work on roads within Apapa that will serve as alternative routes, to be completed before announcing the plan.

Commuters are increasingly turning to the waterway ferries, in their bid to escape debilitating traffic gridlock and redeem valued man-hours on the the Ijora-Apapa road. The Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) confirmed to BusinessDay, an increase in state-wide monthly commuters on the waterways, from 1.5 to 2 million passengers.

With commercial motorcycle operators raising their fares to between N700 and N800 to lift commuters from the National Stadium in Surulere, or CMS, on Lagos Island, to Apapa, the ferries, charging N150 per trip have becomea cheaper and safer alternative.

Checks indicate that the jetty areas have witnessed increased human traffic, as a fallout of the congestion on the road. A visit to the CMS ferry jetty on Friday, July 14, showed extended queues, as hundreds of passengers waited for a boat to arrive. The same scenario was witnessed at Apapa ferry jetty, to connect CMS.

Jasper Okoye, a passenger on board a boat operated by Texas Connection Ferries, told BusinessDay, he now parks his car on the island and rides the boat to Apapa at the cost of N150.

“This is much cheaper, safer and faster. It takes just 10 minutes, and I am in Apapa. At close of work, I return to the jetty and ride in the boat back to CMS, take my car and drive home,” said Okoye, who lives in the Ajah environs.

Another passenger, Emmanuel Sunday, said the ferry was the best alternative for now. Sunday, however, would want to see the road rehabilitation delivered in less than one year.

It was gathered that from an average of 350 passengers’ daily passengers, boat operators on the Marina-Apapa route now record 900 to 1,000 passengers. There are two operators on the route; Sea Coach Express and Texas Connection Ferries, doing an average of 10 trips apiece, with four boats combined.

Oluwole Ogunshola, one of the operators with Sea Coach Express, said they have two boats on the route, with the capacity to deploy more, should the trend continue.

“There has been an increase in passengers and I believe it has to do with the road congestion. We have two boats on this route, but we also operate on other routes. We can deploy more boats to the Marina-Apapa route if the need arises. We hear that the road rehabilitation will last for one year, so we are ready to accommodate more passengers if they come, said Ogunshola.

The operator added the issue of safety is taken seriously as “no passenger is allowed on the boat without wearing a life-jacket, or we will refund his money. That is the rule here,” he stressed.

Passengers who alighted at the Apapa end, said they would have opted for a motorcycle but that the cyclists have adjusted their prices to N700 and N800 from N400 and N500 because of the Apapa traffic. For other passengers, safety is a major factor and although this is not guaranteed by taking ferries, a motorcycle holds no option.

Abisola Kamson, managing director of LASWA, said the expectation was that more passengers would see the need to use the waterways, on account of safety measures put in place and which have boosted the confidence of the people. “Our waterways have been free of accidents,” Kamson said.

The Federal Government handed over the Ijora-Wharf road to the trio of Dangote Group, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, and Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), who are jointly embarking on the rehabilitation of the road as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at the cost of the N4.3 billion.

The contractor, AG Dangote which mobilised to site last week, will be deploying stone-based technology (concrete slabs) to rebuild the collapsed road, as against asphalt, which is common in this part of the world. The stone-based is said to have a longer life span, (up to 50 years), and it is a better option for Apapa, where hundreds of heavy trucks ply daily.


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