As part of measures to reduce emissions and save itself from diesel crisis, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) has commenced the pilot phase of tbuses powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for passenger operations on Marina/CMS to Lekki and Ajah-Epe bus routes.
This is coming even as the price of diesel has hit the roof, leaving stakeholders in the transport business to deal with higher operational expenses and dwindling margins.
Indeed, the price of diesel rose from N300 at the beginning of the year to over N700 per litre, putting the cost beyond the reach of many users.
Though the price of natural gas trades higher, operators noted that at N110 per scm, the equivalent of a litre of petrol, CNG remains the cheapest alternative in the country, ahead of petrol and diesel.
Through its Autogas initiative, government anticipates that within one year, one million of the estimated 12 million vehicles plying Nigerian roads would be running on CNG and LPG, as part of measures to mitigate tension over the proposed removal of subsidy and save the environment from hazards of PMS. It was also believed that it would facilitate the transition to a clean energy source.
The plan, however, witnessed setback, going by what stakeholders described as high cost of conversion and non-availability of the one million conversion kits promised by the Federal Government.
The Guardian had earlier reported that infrastructure, high cost of gas, lack of proper planning, prevailing harsh economic realities and safety concerns continue to frustrate President Muhammadu Buhari’s autogas plan.
While speaking with The Guardian recently, they said it had been challenging seeing the cost of diesel skyrocket, while the burden could not be placed on the clientele.
Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) operators are also feeling the pains, as the hike in diesel costs has not led to in an increase in fares for commuters.
Managing Director of Lagos Bus Services Limited (LBSL), Idowu Oguntona, said: “We are currently consulting to see what can be done. The cost of diesel is very high. Our intention and objective is to continue to provide affordable mobility for Lagosians. But we are consulting on what can be done from the cost management perspective.”
Managing Director of Primero Transport Company, Fola Tinubu, said the spike had affected them negatively. “The diesel price has gone up by over 200 per cent while; there has not been an increase in fares or help from the government. We are struggling right now,” he said.
Tinubu said the company is currently surviving through the help of its banker and vendors.
A statement issued by Consultant, Corporate Communication, LAMATA, Kolawole Ojelabi, explained that under the pilot phase, 10 high occupancy vehicles would be deployed for the service.
Part of the statement read: “The operation franchised to a bus operating company named Femadec, will progressively increase the number of buses to 100 after data had proven the sustainability of the use of CNG.”
LAMATA has over the years been involved in studies aimed at alternative fuel energy sources in transport operations. The deployment of buses powered by CNG will provide useful data for future decisions on the wholesome wide use of such buses for passenger transit operations in Lagos.
CNG burns cleaner and reduces carbon monoxide by more than 80 per cent when compared to traditional petrol and diesel. CNG-powered vehicles also run quieter than gasoline and diesel vehicles, leading to less noise pollution.
The bus operating company will have its operational base at the Ajah Terminal and make use of the bus shelters along the Lekki-Epe corridor for its operation. The fare card, Cowry, will be used to pay for services on the buses.