The new express bus system has finally begun operations in Lagos after many delays. An initiative of the Lagos state government, the service is based on western-style bus rapid transit route systems with high-capacity vehicles and dedicated bus lanes. It aims to reduce traffic congestion in the metropolis by targeting white-collar workers who commute to work in Victoria Island and Ikoyi in particular. Two hundred express buses have been purchased from MarcoPolo Corporation in Brazil for $29 million but the total cost of implementing the scheme has not been disclosed.

Tickets must be bought in advance from designated sales points, including some kiosks near major bus stops. The price is N5,000 (the same as for ordinary buses), with the added advantage that the vehicles are air conditioned. There are no timetables as yet - you just hop on when a bus arrives. Main termini are at Pen Cinema in Agege, a Lagos suburb, and at the Central Methodist School (CMS) on Lagos Island. Intermediary stops are shared with ordinary buses and are thinly scattered all over the city.

The scheme has suffered many hiccups since its launch in January 2007. To begin with, only 50 buses have been cleared from the ports by customs because of the limitation on importation of foreign goods. Further, the dedicated lanes are marked to the left even though driving in Nigeria is on the right, leading to heavy traffic. There has also been very poor publicity about the scheme and the dedicated lanes are routinely abused by drivers despite the threat of a N50,000 fine. (Ronke Nwadike)

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