By Olasunkanmi Akoni and Monsur Olowoopejo
The Minister for Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Tuesday, assured Nigerians that the proposed Lagos-Ibadan segment of Lagos-Kano rail line project will be ready and operational within the next two and half years.
Also to be ready within the projected period, according to Amachi, is the Port Harcourt-Calabar rail line. Both rail lines will, daily, move thousands of passengers across the affected cities.
Amaechi, who disclosed this at a maiden lecture series, themed; “Migrating workforce: the challenges of mass transportation,” organised by the Lagos Traffic Radio (96.1 FM), at Lagos Television, LTV, ground, Ikeja, said the aim is to reduce the current pressure on road infrastructure with resultant accidents and avoidable loss of lives, properties.
The minister also directed the Railway Command of the Nigeria Police Force to stop forthwith, the practice of passengers hanging on moving trains to avoid loss of lives.
The minister said it is the responsibility of the government to protect lives of its citizens,and that it will be better to allow passengers who cannot afford the transport fare to sit in the train than for them to lose their lives.
According to the minister, the rail lines apart from easing transportation difficulties on the affected axes, will also throw up other opportunities including jobs and auxiliary services that will add to boosting the economy.
Amaechi told the audience that the federal government plans to open up the rail transportation system to the active participation of the private sector. He said a bill to realise this had been forwarded to the National Assembly and currently receiving consideration.
The minister said the plan is to ultimately ensure that the rail system takes the centre stage in the nation’s public transportation system, with the private sector playing a pivotal role, unlike in the past where this segment of transportation was the exclusive of the public sector.
According to Ameachi, there are also plans to further open up the maritime space for private sector involvement.
He disclosed that proposals had been received from entities indicating interest to ply the water transportation system, and called on the Lagos State Government to take advantage of the open window by partnering with the federal in the development of the inland waterways.
Speaking on the theme of the lecture, Amachi noted that the process of migrating workforce and people who commute from one location, area, state to another for the purpose of engaging in employment is still very difficult in the country, saying the present government is making frantic effort to make transportation easy in the country.
The minister said, “In fact, as families migrate due to employment purposes, they are compelled to move with children who require transportation to attend schools. Where transportation is lacking, the level of distress for the working parents and children becomes increased.
“Studies of the travel behaviour of the migrating workforce in the United Kingdom, UK, and US10 for example show that Migrants are concentrated in metropolitan areas where public transport provision is high.
“In the UK in particular, 40 percent of the non-EEA migrant population live in London compared to UK Nationals. Researchers in the US on the other hand reveal that migrants would prefer residential locations that are well served by public transport.
“The research further reveals that in developing countries, Migrants’ travel is strongly associated with the use of non-car-driving modes of travel, which include: public transport such as buses, trains, underground/light rail, walking, cycling and car sharing.
“Therefore, availability of efficient and affordable transportation in a location is a major consideration for the choice migrants make to look for employment and places of residence.”
According to him, as far as mass transportation is concerned, there is evidence to show that inadequacy in transport infrastructure and services had contributed significantly to the prevalence of poverty across various Nigerian communities in both urban and rural areas.
The minster explained that the problems of Nigerian transport system cut across various sub-sectors, including; air, water, rail and road transport.
Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Dayo Mobereola, highlighting plans by the state government to grow the sector, said an inter-modal transportation master plan is already being implemented to link the rail, road and water such that by 2032, no resident of Lagos will need to walk more than 80 kilometres from his home to board any means of transportation.
Mobereola said apart from the blue line rail ongoing on Orile-Mile 2 corridor, six other light rail systems and a monorail line had been identified, with 20 water routes, 14 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and 450 routes for high capacity buses, aimed at changing the face of public transportation in the megacity.
‘All these routes in water, road and rail will connect to different communities across Lagos,” said Mobereola. He added this will ensure that travel time for residents is reduced to maximum of 60 minutes from the current average of three to four hours.