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Commuters to boycott BRT services over tariff hike

By Benjamin Alade
05 June 2020   |   3:06 am
Commuters in Lagos have expressed dissatisfaction over the hike in fares by the Primero Transport Services Limited, operator of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

*Average fare within cities rose by 8.21 per cent
*Lagos needs standard format of Molue to ease transportation, experts say

Commuters in Lagos have expressed dissatisfaction over the hike in fares by the Primero Transport Services Limited, operator of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the state.

The public was miffed by the 50 to 100 per cent spike in fares, to which many have threatened to boycott the services.

Meanwhile, the latest report by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that average fare paid by commuters for bus journey within the cities increased by 8.21 per cent month-on-month and by 23.43 per cent year-on-year to N223.71 in April from N206.73 in March.

Recall that the BRT operator earlier announced an upward review of transport fares across all routes with effect from yesterday to meet up with current challenges.

The BRT firm resumed operation last Friday with a new fare regime, saying it had received the government’s nod for an upward review.

Indeed, industry stakeholders claimed that the increase in fare across the state is about 200 to 250 per cent.

The Managing Director of Primero, Fola Tinubu, told The Guardian that a trip that cost commuters N200 had been increased to N300, and that of N300 had risen to N500.

Tinubu said that the firm understood the plight of the people and the economic situation, but that the step became imperative to keep serving the commuters diligently and to provide a world-class service for them.

He said the cost of operating the buses had increased so much that the firm was finding it difficult to survive and sustain operations, and had been piling up losses.

As opposed to the transport guidelines that mandated the operator to commute only 20 passengers per trip instead of 70, Tinubu said the company had received approval to carry 42 passengers going forward.

“For the four days that we were off the road Danfo buses were charging commuters N500 from Ikorodu to Mile 12, they were charging N1500 from Ikorodu to CMS. What we are doing is in the best interest of everybody in the long-term. We are charging less than danfo and every other commercial bus presently,” he said.

Some commuters plying Ikorodu-CMS axis, however, said that the increase in fares at such a trying time for the masses would further increase hardship and financial burdens.

“Why are they doing this to the masses at a time when the government is supposed to be doing things that will make people survive this difficult time?

“Even if the hike is truly necessary, it should not be now. More so, there is no increase in pump price. This action is ill-timed.

“The government is encouraging yellow buses to push up their fares, then life will be more difficult. It should not be now. This will bring hardship,” Gift Wejem, a furniture maker said.

A media expert, Ade Adesiyan, said that the best the government could have done at such a time was to provide bailout funds for the BRT operators if they were finding it difficult to operate.

Adesiyan, who said that though some people would not be affected by the increase in fares, government authorities should have considered the poor whose burden would be heavier.

“This is not a good time, but for some of us, we are interested in smart, effective and efficient services. We will be glad to witness reformed services. It will be disappointing if the services remain the same.

“The time we lose at bus stations waiting for buses is too much. We will be happy if this is addressed now that the fares have been increased.”

A welder, Titus Oyedeji, who was Lekki-bound, from Ikorodu, said the hike portrayed insensitivity on the part of the government.

Oyedeji asked: “How can government-controlled buses be thinking of profit-making at a time when the poor masses are fighting hard to survive? I am not happy at all.”

According to him, the hike will affect so many people who, because of their pockets, always wait for long on queues to use the BRT buses.

The report titled, ‘Transport fare Watch for April’, indicates that average fare paid by commuters for bus journey intercity also increased by 5.22 per cent month-on-month and by 10.92 per cent year-on-year to N1,779.51 in April from N1,691.23 in March.

States with highest bus journey fare intercity were Abuja FCT (N4, 120.00), Adamawa (N2, 650.00) and Borno (N2, 600.00) while States with lowest bus journey fare within city were Enugu (N1000.00), Bauchi/Bayelsa/Zamfara (N1200) and Edo (N1, 220.00).

The report for April 2020, covers the following categories namely bus journey within the city per drop constant route; bus journey intercity, state route, a charge per person; airfare charge for specified routes single journey; journey by motorcycle (Okada) per drop; and waterway passenger transport.

The report also states that average fare paid by commuters for journey by motorcycle per drop increased by 10.56 per cent month-on-month and by 27.45 per cent year-on-year to N148.22 in April from N134.07 in March.

States with highest journey fare by motorcycle per drop were Rivers (N254.00), Lagos (N250.00) and Kogi (N231.11) while states with lowest journey fare by motorcycle per drop were Katsina (N70.00), Adamawa (N80.00) and Kebbi (N84.00).

Many states in the country imposed partial or total restrictions on movements in April in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This led to a hike in fares that many commuters complained bitterly about as economic activities ground to a halt.

Speaking on an alternative to ease the burden of the high cost of living, Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said there was not much that could be done to significantly affect the burden. The providers of transport services are also in a terrible fix. The situation whereby they could only carry 60 per cent of capacity has already scrapped off their profit margin.

The only little relief according to Odewumi is the reduction in fuel prices, which may not last long, if the global economy picks. The business of transportation has to be sustainable in order to be able to provide.

“My major suggestion is that we should go back to the days of Molue albeit in a more modern format. I have my serious reservations about the imported sophisticated high capacity vehicles we are using on BRT presently.

“All these small yellow buses are not suitable for a mass movement of commuters in a densely populated metropolis like Lagos. Once the capacity is increased, the fare will automatically drop because of the economics of large scale.

“The main point is that we should brace up for a rough ride on our transportation system. If the journey is not productively critical, ignore it and safe yourself and the society the wastage. If you can do it online virtually, do it. All the Owambe we waste time and money on, just send the celebrants alert, they will appreciate it. COVID-19 has come to reset our brains to change some of our unprofitable ways,” Odewumi added.

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