The recent train-bus collision in Lagos which claimed six lives could easily be traced to human error. However, other factors which included lack of delineation between road and rail authority could just mean that another disaster is just waiting to happen, writes TOLA ADENUBI.
The recent train/bus collision this month in Lagos left a sour taste in the mouths of many Lagosians given the fact that it was an accident that it could have been avoided if all hands were on deck.
For anybody conversant with the way and manner the rail tracks cut through the Lagos metropolis from Iddo near the Lagos Island down to Iju axis deep inside Lagos mainland, the encroachment of the city along the rail tracks leaves much to discern.
Due to series of expansion works following the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge and the ongoing construction of the Lagos Red Line, many level crossing barriers which hitherto served as demarcation between oncoming trains and vehicles had been removed and not replaced, thus exposing the routes of the two modes of transportation to each other.
Notable among the barriers removed during the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail construction was the Yaba level crossing barrier which is yet to be replaced, even as the distance between the trains and the vehicles remains very close.
While some level crossings had their barriers removed due to ongoing rail construction works, some do not even have any form of barrier despite the heavy human and vehicular traffic around them. Notable among level crossing that fall in this category are the Arena/Oshodi level crossing and the PWD level crossing.
Proper road/rail delineation
In a statement issued recently by the President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Mfon Usoro, the Institute said that rail specific infrastructure such as barriers, gate house, rails and level crossings with adequate signage and audio warnings should be provided and maintained by the railway authority.
According to the CILT President, “Level crossings are essential safety infrastructure for the free flow of transportation where there are intersections between two or more modes of transport.
“The road is designed, constructed, and maintained by a public authority separate from the Nigerian Railway Corporation that owns, maintains the rail tracks and operates the trains.
“Best practice dictates that rail specific infrastructure such as barriers, gate house, rails and level crossings with adequate signage and audio warnings be provided and maintained by the Railway Authority.
“The Institute recommends the following measures to government for consideration and implementation:
“Short term measures: There should be clear demarcation of responsibilities and efficient coordination between the road authority and the rail authority in managing intersections.
“The party responsible for funding the safe operations of the infrastructure should be revisited.
“The present system of shared financial responsibility for the provision, manning and maintenance of the safety infrastructure at intersections appears cumbersome and leaves room for lack of accountability.
“With proper dimensioning of roles, adequate funding should be provided for in the budget of the Nigerian Railway.
“There are minimum safe distances that must be observed at stops and intersections. A train requires a minimum of 320 metres adequate distance (safety over-run). This implies that to stop a train in motion, the driver must apply the brake about 320 metres to the stop point. It is an extremely difficult feat to maneuver a successful emergency stop for a moving train with shorter safety over-run. This underscores the imperative of installing functional and well manned safety infrastructure at every infrastructure.
“The establishment of the proposed National Transport Safety Board aligns with global practice and is long overdue. We call on the Honourable Federal Minister of Transportation, most respectfully, to submit the National Transport Policy to the FEC for approval.”
Too many intersections
Checks by the Nigerian Tribune revealed that between Iddo to Iju, there are over 10 level crossing where vehicular movement exists across rail tracks. At many of the level crossings, where vehicles are barely separated from the moving train by some few distance, the likelihood of another train/vehicle collision remains possible.
Places like the Oyingbo level crossing, Ebj level crossing, Yaba level crossing, PWD level crossing and Arena/Oshodi level crossing need monitoring by law enforcement agencies since some of these level crossings lack barriers to check the movement of vehicles when a train approaches.
In the words of the CILT president, “Erection of barriers, construction of road bumps/speed retarders, presence of law enforcement agents at the level crossings to complement the work of the gate keepers are required.
“Aggressive safety awareness campaigns targeted at commuters by the relevant agencies like the FRSC and state traffic agencies should be implemented.
“For long term solutions, the prevalence of intersections should be reduced. There should also be separation of the routes for rail tracks and roads. New constructions should, as far as is practicable, not include intersections in designs. Flyovers or tunnels should be preferred options.”
The only level crossings enjoying vehicular under-pass or flyovers are the Pen Cinema level crossing and the Guinness junction over pass, both in Agege. All other level crossing are intersections were vehicles face moving trains.
A major issue frustrating the efforts to avoid another train/bus collision in Lagos is taming reckless driving by drivers of so-called Lagos State-owned buses on major roads.
The unnecessary air of nonchalance of most drivers of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme in Lagos has resulted in several accidents that have cost many lives, though in most cases, these drivers often live to tell the story. Most of the victims of accidents involving BRT buses are either passengers or passersby.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, an ardent user of the BRT, Mrs Folawewo Ajani explained that the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) needs to review its policy as regards employment of drivers for BRT buses.
In the words of Mrs Ajani, “Most of the BRT drivers don’t take correction once they are behind the wheels.
“You cannot talk to them and they will listen to you. It is like once they are driving that bus, they are on the same level with the governor of the state. Yes, the bus is a government-initiative, but that does not mean the drivers are above correction.
“Sometimes, some of the drivers will have ear piece while driving. If you try to correct them or ask them to remove it, they won’t even listen to you. Because they don’t collect money directly from passengers, they listen to nobody.
“I read in the papers that the driver of the ill-fated BRT bus carrying Lagos State workers which was crushed by a moving train was cautioned about the oncoming train. I read that the driver was cautioned but he refused. That’s their stock-in-trade. They listen to nobody. I am even surprised that the driver involved refused to listen to his passengers who were staff of the state government that he works for. If a BRT bus driver refuses to listen to passengers who are Lagos Stvb ate Government workers, why will such driver listen to ordinary people like us that also use the scheme?
“It is high time the State government through LAMATA reviewed its employment policy. The present situation were all manner of drivers are employed for BRT buses needs to stop.
“I once entered a BRT bus at Obalende where the driver was already high alcohol. We (passengers) were all complaining but nobody listened to us. It took the grace of God for the bus to get to Oshodi safely.
“When I wanted to alight, I tried warning the driver who was oozing of alcohol, but he won’t listen to me. So, when the train/bus collision happened and I learnt it was a BRT bus, I wasn’t surprised. There should be a total overhauling of the recruitment system for BRT drivers.”