Nigeria’s road traffic: The Rail alternative (1)

Nigeria’s road traffic: The Rail alternative (1)

Commuting in a metropolis like Lagos is for many people, a nightmare. Most roads are bad, traffic congestion is added, and the risk of frictions between vehicles is often on the high side.

In saner climes where rail is used for effective passenger traffic, commuting is made a lot easier as individuals spend more hours being productive at work, rather than stuck in traffic gridlocks.

Akinwumi Ambode, governor of Lagos state while being represented by Tunji Bello, Secretary to LASG at the sixth annual lecture of the Federal Road Safety Corps last year, remarked that the state loses N42 billion annually to traffic congestion

The value of time in transport economics is described as the opportunity cost of the time that a traveller spends on his/her journey. In essence, this makes it the amount that a traveller would be willing to pay in order to save time, or the amount they would accept as compensation for lost time.

The impact of traffic congestion is palpable to anyone witnessing delay on Lagos roadways. The World Bank in 2009 estimated that 8 million people travel to work via public transportation each day on the 9,100 roads and expressways available in Lagos.

The Economic Intelligence Unit of the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning & Budget, noted in 2013 that, with more than 1 million registered vehicles as at 2011, there are potentially more than one million trips made during the peak travel periods of the day; this is much more during seasonal festivities such as Easter and Christmas when there is an influx from other parts of the country.

In 2013, an additional 369,071 vehicles were registered in Lagos, as shown by data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Presently, the state would have about two million vehicles plying the state’s dilapidated roads and adding to the stress commuters are subjected to.

The effects of road traffic congestion are visible on the economy, infrastructures, environment and health. The actual economic impacts of traffic congestion can differ from one area to other, depending on its economic profile and business location pattern.

According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, in its publication on Transport Statistics, rail transport is usually the most suitable mode of transportation for heavy traffic flows when speed is also an advantage because of the lower cost per person per load as the train load increases. Nigeria’s single-narrow-gauge railway line constructed in the colonial period was for many years the only mode of freight movement between the northern and southern parts of the country. In Nigeria, rail transport accounts less than a half per cent to the gross domestic products of the transport sector.

Although rail has always contributed a tiny proportion of value-added in transportation, its share of value-added continues to decline because road transport (freight and passenger) has virtually taken over all the traffic previously conveyed by rail. The relegated status of the Nigerian Railways is a classic illustration of a transportation policy which has sidelined an important and cheap means of transport to foster the growth of privately-owned long haulage transport services. This policy has engendered the following:

(i)                It has made the Nigerian Railway Corporation [NRC] a lame duck with total reliance on the Government for subvention.

(ii)             A disorganised, unregulated private sector-owned road transport system providing freight and passenger services.

The effects of these are: (i) traffic congestion on urban roads. (ii) increasing rate of fatal road accidents emanating from bad roads, poorly-maintained vehicles and careless driving. (iii) worsening environmental pollution.

The sharp devaluation of the Naira has also aggravated the situation as an increasing number of private car owners are joining the pool of frustrated travellers and commuters.

The weakened rail transport system would have been a cheap and efficient means of passenger traffic across the country, saving commuters time and money lost on the poor road networks.

 

MIKE OCHONMA & CALEB OJEWALE

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