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Managing land, waterway traffic by radio

Managing land, waterway traffic by radio

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The start of train movements and waterways coverage, among others, on Lagos Traffic Radio last week may have set a paradigm shift in traffic planning that may help resolve gridlocks, writes ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE

The addition  of waterways and train movements reporting by Nigeria’s premier traffic radio station, Lagos Traffic Radio 96.1, established by the Lagos State Government, may have set a new tone in managing traffic patterns and movement advisory in and around Lagos, the nation’s economic nerve centre.

Lagos State, with its 26.6 million people, is Africa’s fifth largest economy. Traffic gridlock on its roads, caused by over- concentration on vehicular movement for goods and passengers have thrown up the need to deploy technology and information in managing the traffic pattern.

According to experts, road advisory by the radio station is meant to provide real time information on traffic situation to Lagosians and over the last seven years, virtually all residents of the state have had to rely almost exclusively on the state’s traffic radio.

A resident, Akintayo Thomas, said only Google Map, an advisory platform, presently beats Traffic Radio in terms of timely information to road users, commuters and motorists about traffic situations, which in recent times, have become a nightmare to many residents.

The station’s General Manager, Mr Tayo Akanle, said Traffic radio started seven years ago, with traffic coverage across the five divisions of the state.

He said the station started broadcasting simultaneously in Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu, Lagos Island and Epe, in 2011, adding that having won the hearts of Lagosians on vehicular transportation, extending its reach to the waterways, train and shipping advisory, seven years after its establishment, is to consolidate on its status as the pioneer in this specialised mode of radio broadcasting.

Giving insight into how the new journey began, Akanle, who resumed at the station in September, last year, said after reviewing the station’s mandate, which clearly stipulated the coverage of all modes of transportation–road (vehicular, train), waterways and air, decided to extend its coverage to the other modes to further extend its coverage and “to offer our listeners a higher value for their time”.

Coming, as the government is tinkering with transportation policy for the state, which among others recommended sensitisation and aggressive enlightenment operations, the radio may be pioneering the idea of using data and feedbacks to manage traffic patterns and gridlock across the state.

At various fora, stakeholders have argued on the need for the government to take over the transportation industry from charlatans that populates its helms.

Giving an insight into the origin of the journey, Akanle said: “After conceiving the idea, we invited the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA). We deliberated on how we can begin to create that awareness. We came up with the first step to train water guards and we trained water guard supervisors from 24 jetties and five terminals.”

The training was to provide basic communication skills for those guards, who in turn are to provide basic information on movements on the waterways with boats and ferries that are privately owned, but regulated by LASWA.

“After the training, we commenced the broadcasting with letting the water guards provide us with basic information, such as the number of boats or ferries available at a particular jetty, their destinations, their safety preparedness against hazards, and awareness creation to the waterways as a faster alternative of commuting.

“All these information are being provided on all the jetties in Lagos State, so you can imagine that a boat from Ikorodu to Ebute Ero can spend between 15 to 20 minutes, whereas opting for road transportation may cost you between two to three hours. By creating the awareness it would help reduce vehicular movements or decongest our roads, and enhance their productivity. The operation started on February 25, they have started doing it the way we wanted them to do it,” Akanle said.

He continued: “From 6am to 8am, the water guards would call into our station live, and report traffic activities on boats that are ready to move to different locations. For instance, from Ikorodu, boats move to Falomo, Apapa, Ebute Ero, CMS and Ajah, all from one location at Ipakodo Jetty. In Ikorodu, we have Ipakodo, Baiyeku, and Offin jetties. So, moving from that part of Lagos to other parts is now being covered live. And the feedback is that with enhanced travel time, productivity has improved from patrons as they can now achieve more than they could hitherto do.”

Akanle said although the initiative is just a week old, the feedback has been very positive, as indication has shown that many who never knew about it  were showing interest in patronising the waterways.

Akanle said: “For us, the bigger picture of water movement is through the development of all these other modes, so that when government eventually tapped into these sectors, our effective coverage would be seamless. People can move from Badagry to Apapa, from Badagry to Apapa, from Ipakodo to Apapa, from Baiyeku, Offin, all the way to Ebute Ero, Ebute Ojo and Falomo. We would like to see the deployment of barges on our waterways to address movement of goods and vehicles. The government has shown readiness to key into the water sector by building jetties and bringing ferries. Our initiative is to increase the people’s awareness that these options are available and are working and that government is working at making it more comfortable. We have also by this tried to optimise the value that we give people, not only on the road, but on other modes of transportation.”

Added to this, according to Akanle, is rail coverage. Trains movement from Kajola, Ijoko to Apapa and the time of departure are being reported daily. The programme, which started the penultimate week, was as a result of healthy relationship with the Nigerian Railway Corporation, which supplied the station with the information being relayed to the people. “They gave us the fare, the originating train and destination and the time of movement, which gradually is helping Lagosians, who love to use the train to plan their travels. We relay live commentary of movement of train and this also started in February. We run it concurrently with flight schedules, we now do more of local flight schedule from Lagos to other parts of the country. We do these four times a day. We are trying to broaden our outlook and with this we have gained more audience and more revenue to our coffers,” Akanle said.

Asked if the traffic radio have capacity to deliver on its mandate, he said the station believes it has, adding that the station would continue to work on its synegies with transportation related agencies to bring more exciting travel experience to Lagosians, using any of its modes of transportation. The station, Akanle said, is reaping massively from its collaboration with LASTMA, adding that it is looking ahead of greater success on the waterways as the waterguards would be performing similar roles covering the waterways for the station.

He added that the station would continue to train all those to be deployed on reportorial skills, either on the waterways or train services. “We have even delved into shipping position to give information on the kinds of ships that would be berthing, even the kinds of commodity that they are bringing into the country. So that people would be aware of what is coming into the country. We are trying to cover all the modes that are within our mandate, not necessarily digressing and we are doing in concert with all the connected agencies. We have become a household name and we want to leverage that credibility. People rely on us to move around the state,” he said.

Transportation and logistics stakeholders have said it is high time the state began to exploit its comparative advantage in waterways transportation. With over 70 per cent of its landmass covered with water, creeks and lagoons, Lagos, which is said to have about 143 kms of waterways, they argued, is better positioned to be a leader in waterways transportation.

“On our water reporting, we are even trying to generate data, and we are seeing that the capacity of the water way is very massive if fully tapped. Our correspondents are also looking for the compliance to security measures on the waterways,” Akanle said.

Industry watchers said more collaboration between LASWA and National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA), could only be to the benefit of Lagosians, who both agencies are meant to protect.

With the construction of modern jetties, the plan to dredge the waterways, bring in new ferries, and the massive removals of impediments on the waterways, there is no doubting where government focus is in terms of the development of the mode.

Besides, Traffic Radio, Akanle, said is becoming the fastest growing community on social media, using the multi-platform approach. “We are bent on creating more awareness on how to achieve safer movements across all modes of transportation. We keep on increasing; we have done more than 100 per cent followership increase in the last six months.

To put an end to gridlock, which he traced to impatience, Akanle said motorists and other road users should use the road responsibly. “If there’s traffic we should have the patience to follow through rather than jump lanes and drive against the traffic. One way of beating impatience is to leave your house early so that you can get to where you want to go to on time. There is also lane indiscipline and general bad driving attitude of commercial drivers. If all these are put on checks, Lagos roads may return to the days of old when roads are very pleasurable as reckless stopping at illegal places to drop and pick passengers, thereby constituting hindrance to free flow of traffic, would be a thing of the past. The only thing is a nagging doubt whether only radio campaign for attitudinal change alone can drive the change required to bring sanity to the road and the waterways.

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