The Lagos metropolis may soon have a new transport mode with the striking of an agreement between the Lagos State government and a private firm to introduce cable cars to the city.
That will make the Nigerian commercial capital the first city in Africa to use cable cars as part of its mass transit system.
The continuous traffic logjam on Lagos roads is forcing the state government to devise various ways to tackle transportation challenges in the state.
Road expansion has become a difficult task in the overcrowded city as more homes have to pulled down for the purpose.
Dapo Olumide, the managing director of Ropesway Transport Limited, the franchise owners of the system, says the company is set to launch the cable cars in June 2013 but the commencement of commercial operations is planned for 2015 after all the supportive infrastructure has been put in place.
Ropesway will begin by constructing towers, stations and connecting network of cables along various routes. The first phase of the project will involve routes connecting Ijora-Iddo, Iddo-Adeniji, Apapa-Oluwole, Oluwole-Adeniji-Obalende, Falomo-Obalende and Victoria-Obalende areas of Lagos and subsequently expand to other parts of the metropolis as the business grows.
Some Lagos residents worry at the practicability of using cable cars as alternative means of transportation. "Have the operators considered the danger of thunderstorms on cable cars? It could be disastrous for real-time urban transportation," wonders Segun Olusakin, a city resident.
More critically, Lagos is notorious for its frequent power blackouts which will badly affect the cable car system.
However, Mr Olumide argues that they will rely on Independent Power Producers (IPPs) for power supply which will guarantee all-round, non-stop and efficient operations.
The power sources presumably will be obtained from gas supplies supported by two inverter backups and a 1.5-megawatt diesel-powered source.
The capacity of the cable car is projected to lift about 250,000 passengers while a break-even point is put at 200,000 passengers. That number of passengers (250,000) is a lot in a city were transportation is a huge challenge and many hours are lost in traffic, making most workers in the state unproductive.
Understandably, the state government has thrown its weight behind the cable car project given the transportation headaches in the city. But how soon, safe, efficient and affordable the system will be is the question.
"What we want to do in Lagos is to complement existing transportation infrastructure and not to compete [with other modes of transport]," says Mr Olumide.
He reckons the system will be affordable at between N200 and N300 with the operating hours falling between 5am and 10pm.