Commuting in Comfort with the New Lagos Bus Service

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The new Lagos Bus Service has opened a new vista for the state’s teeming passengers to commute in comfort, Rebecca Ejifoma writes

After years of commuting in rickety buses popularly known as ‘Danfo’ a new vista has been launched for Lagosians as the face of public transportation in Lagos is set to change for good with the coming of Lagos Bus Services Limited (LBSL), a company of the state government.

Incorporated in August 2016 as a Transport Asset Acquisition, Operations, and Advisory Services Company, Lagos Bus Service (LBS) is the brain behind the new, medium and high capacity buses steadily making an appearance across the Lagos metropolis.

As Lagos evolves into a smart city, LBSL is positioned to create a very competitive space in the Transport Industry where urban mobility guarantees a market for mass transit transport operators; with availability and pricing as key decision drivers. LBSL is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the orderliness, proper coordination and progress of the industry in Lagos.

At the heart of the LBSL mandate are commuters, everyday Lagosians, who rely on bus services to get to and from their homes and places of interests. By engaging mass transit operators and ensuring a market that is free and rewarding for all, the commuter is guaranteed the best bus services at the best prices and in very comfortable atmosphere.

Among other responsibilities, the Lagos Bus Services Limited is set “to be the dominant service provider within the transit sector in Nigeria and the industry reference point in Africa.”

Launch

Launched on April 24, 2019, by President Muhammadu Buhari, the buses are a key component of the Bus Reform Project, an initiative of the Lagos State Government. The Bus Reform is to redefine the public transportation system in Lagos, with the injection of modern buses and terminals targeted to transform the way residents commute within the state.

Expectedly, the new buses under the Bus Reform Initiative (BRI) with free services on five routes, would redefine public transportation and make the state globally competitive.

The free service was launched across five routes, including Berger to Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Berger to Oshodi, Oshodi to TBS, Ikeja to Alausa and Ikeja to Oshodi to commemorate the Workers Days, after which normal service is to start on May 2, 2019.

Comfort and Safety

Speaking at Ikeja Bus Terminal, one of the modern terminals constructed as part of the BRI, an official of the Lagos Bus Services Limited, the operator of the buses, Mr Timi Olajide said it was a good thing that the buses have now been finally launched for the use of the people.

He said out of the 5,000 buses planned for the initiative, the government was launching the scheme with 820 high and medium capacity buses, adding that asides the intelligent transport system component of the initiative which will aid Lagosians to plan their journeys, comfort and safety of the people have also been factored into the whole process.

“In each of the buses, we have six emergency exits and First Aid Box, while every seat has a dedicated USB port for charging of phones, free Wi-fi, television and CCTV cameras which are linked to our control centre to monitor everything going on in the buses, among other features.

“We have also taken the issue of people with disabilities specially and there are seats reserved for them in the buses,” Olajide said.

Commendable Development

At the Oshodi Transport Interchange, a cross-section of Lagos residents who enjoyed the free service, lauded the state government especially Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for the buses and the infrastructure provided to support the transport reforms, saying the development was commendable.

To ease the daily movement of millions of Lagos commuters, 800 of the expected 5000 buses have been delivered to the state; 50 of these buses have already been deployed on five routes across Lagos as part of a pilot phase.

The deployment of the new buses by LBS is designed to address the inadequacies of the existing unreliable transportation system in Lagos, which hitherto was a mishmash of unregulated yellow mini buses, loosely regulated transport services like the ride-hailing taxis, and regulated mass transit bus services like BRT.

Procured with government funds, the Brazilian-built Marcopolo buses are a wonder on wheels, equipped with air conditioning and priority seating for the physically challenged, the elderly, and pregnant women. Each bus has six emergency exits and a first aid kit, free WiFi, television, and CCTV cameras linked to a control centre to monitor everything going on in the buses and every seat has a dedicated USB port for charging phones.

Changing the Narrative

Over the last decade or so, commercial bus operations within the Lagos metropolis have largely been a free market where just about anything goes. LBS is set to change that.

According to the Managing Director, Mr. Idowu Oguntona, “the company’s mission is to provide smart and sustainable bus transportation solutions to meet the needs of the modern city of Lagos. To achieve this lofty vision of being the dominant service provider within the mass transit sector in Nigeria, we have created a competitive space where urban mobility guarantees a market for mass transit operators, with whom we would make available the means to move Lagos residents in comfort, with adequate capacity and affordable pricing”.

The initial 800 buses would be leased to reputable private bus operators through an operating lease model which will put into consideration all stakeholders in the transport sector.

The bus operators will use three bus depots located at Ilupeju, Anthony, and Yaba to ensure that the buses are deployed, sustained and maintained properly.

Bus routes will be allocated to the operators for effective implementation of the Bus Reform Project. Operating companies are certified professional public transport service providers who will operate the assets according to the approved Service Level Agreement.

It was also gathered that the vehicles are of uniform specification, which will be expected to run on predictable schedules, and ply routes supported by appropriate infrastructure for efficient and effective mass transit. Operations will be driven by technology, service delivery, creative, engaging, and exciting rider experience.

Accordingly, an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) under which the new Lagos buses will operate will be deployed. This includes an electronic information system which provides real time passenger information to commuters; such as estimates of bus arrival and departure times as well as information about the nature and causes of service delays.

Also, electronic ticketing will be put in place to ensure prompt boarding of passengers and revenue protection, to reduce waiting time at boarding points.

Drivers and attendants are to be trained and certified to work in a respectable and courteous manner, properly kitted uniforms and official identity badges for easy identification to the entire public.

Infrastructure provided for smooth operations include bus shelters, lay-bys, bus flags, terminals, and depots at various strategic points along the routes.

Expectations

To achieve the goal of seamless passenger movement as envisioned by the Lagos Bus Reform Project, the state has been divided into five Strategic Transport Zones. The transport zones shall identify transport and traffic dynamics and the efficient implementation of the project. These Strategic Transport Zones are Ikeja, Lagos Island, Oshodi, Abule Egba, and strategic linkages (other routes).

The five zones are the major transport hubs in Lagos. Each hub is characterised by major transport activities and also serve as prominent key destinations of commuters. Each of the zones also contain transport sub-hubs which are major trip destinations from other parts of the state.

Oguntona is confident that the new Lagos buses would boost the confidence of Lagos residents in the use of public transportation facilities. “Perhaps we are not too far off from a time when commuters will park their cars and use the new Lagos buses for their daily commute. Imagine the possibilities of commuting with ease and stress free within Lagos”, he added.

Speaking further, he quipped that that the intention of LBS is to develop a strong emotional connection with the average Lagos commuter. It aims to do so by building a clear competitive advantage in brand, service, pricing, availability, and customer service. “That is why the new Lagos buses are presented in an image which differentiates them from alternative transport systems, and communicates in a clear, consistent, and attractive manner; the company’s commitment to provide decent, efficient, modern public transportation,” he added.

Capable Leadership

Oguntona as a seasoned finance and management expert, with over 17 years of dynamic professional work experience; in private and public sectors, is a natural leader, with proven executive management track record and several years of experience in leadership, start-ups, leading change management, treasury management, financial accounting and audit.

Prior to joining LBSL as Chief Executive Officer in 2016, Oguntona served as the Managing Director of LAGBUS Asset Management Ltd (LAGBUS), where in addition to his responsibility of providing strategic direction for LAGBUS’ operations, he championed the implementation of the Lagos State Bus Reform Initiative.

Before his engagement at LAGBUS, Idowu worked with Notore Chemical Industries PLC, (a leading conglomerate with businesses in agro-allied, power and real estate), where he was part of the team involved in raising $222million medium-term syndicated project finance for acquiring and refurbishing the assets of National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria (NAFCON).

Idowu started his professional career as a civil servant with Lagos State Government in 2001, where he worked in various roles with the Lagos State Office of the Auditor-General for Local Governments.

He obtained a Bachelors degree in Accounting from Bayero University, Kano, in 2000 and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), from Lagos State University in 2005. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Nigeria (ICAN) in 2004 and later became a Fellow of the same Institute (FCA) in 2014.

Shola Oni, on the other hand is a seasoned engineer and the Technical and Asset Management Director, whose job is to ensure the buses are in good conditions always. She started her career in Automobile Engineering as an apprentice in the United Kingdom going through the City & Guilds apprenticeship programme and obtained a degree in Automobile Engineering from Bolton University, Lancashire.

Her 22 years post-degree experience spans across the public and private sectors of transportation having worked at fairly senior levels with the Office of Rail Regulator, Strategic Rail Authority, Department for Transport and First Group all in the United Kingdom and more recently LAGBUS Asset Management.

She was the first UK female appointed Engineering Director working with First Group in the bus division, one of the biggest transport operating companies with accountability for the operation of the engineering function and depot infrastructure across multiple depots and a large fleet size. Shola has also managed various projects including a £6.5m Scottish FirstGroup smartcard upgrade project, £10m York FirstGroup fleet replacement and more recently the Lagos State Bus Reform Project for which she was the technical lead.

Operations are overseen by Oluseyi Osiyemi, a Transportation Specialist with extensive experience in planning, operations, and management of multi-modal transportation systems in Africa, Europe, and Australasia. He has also led the development of institutional and governance framework for urban bus services operating contracts/franchise agreements, in line with world’s best practices.

As a professional, Osiyemi is passionate about development of sustainable transportation systems in Africa. As an astute project manager, his strength lies in working with multi-disciplinary teams from inception to implementation of public transportation projects.

Before joining LBSL, Osiyemi served as General Manager for LAGBUS for almost four years. He was the Group General Manager of KK Group in Uganda. He worked as a Consultant the kampala Centre for Logistics and Transport. He was also Chief Executive Officer for Pioneer Easy Bus Limited.

Mr. Osiyemi is a graduate of the Olabisi Onabanjo University where he obtained a BSC in Geography and Regional Planning. He holds an MSC from the Oxford Brookes University and a Diploma in Project Management from Chiefly Business School.