One of the lasting memories for those who travel through big cities in Nigeria is the nightmare of weekday traffic. Whether driving through Lagos, Kano or, more recently, Abuja, you probably don’t want to be on the road at 9 am. Our exclusive dependence on roads puts enormous pressure on these infrastructures as well as guarantees consistent inefficiency in the way we spend our day.
While light rails and tramways have been slow to develop, a relatively less expensive and probably more efficient solution to this urban transportation crisis might be the use of gondola lifts as integral part of our transportation architecture.
What are Gondola lifts?
Habitual skiers and visitors to ski resorts are probably familiar with the sight of cable-driven aerial cars that convey people to the heights of the Alps as well as give visitors a beautiful aerial view of the city. Simply put, gondola lifts are a different means of transportation driven and propelled by cables, and powered by electric motors.
While this form of transportation has been widely used in the tourism sector, they have begun to find use in the manufacturing and urban transportation sectors. The single most popular gondola-based urban transport system is the Metrocable in the city of Medellin, Colombia. Similar systems have been adopted in Bolivia, United States (Portland, Oregon), and Lebanon among others.
Considering the huge discomfort in the Nigerian urban transport system, we see an important investment opportunity in gondola-based transportation infrastructure. This would complement the existing road-based short-distance transport infrastructure and help new companies cash in on time-sensitive Nigerian workers. Same arguments could be made for other major West African cities.
Pros and Cons of Gondola Lifts in Urban Transportation
The biggest selling point of the Gondola lift is its high adaptability. It has been used to move skiers in resorts, transport passengers between different parts of the city, and move bulk materials in mining sites. The list is endless. Considering the relatively fixed nature of buildings and other infrastructures in major Nigerian cities, gondola lifts are a better option for improving transportation without dislocating a huge number of residents in the city. An added advantage is that the systems could be designed to transport large number of passengers; as much as 10,000 per hour. Even more.
In addition, gondola lifts cost relatively less to construct and maintain than trams and metro transport systems. This is due to the fact that they do not require exclusive right of way, unlike roads and rails. This reduces upfront investments to about 20% of the cost of investing in alternative transportation systems. The detachability of the cars also promote effective management since cars can be added and removed at different periods of the day in order to respond accurately to demand while controlling costs.
However, gondolas are not without their downsides. Foremost, this transportation system is powered by electricity. So far, the supply of electricity has been quite erratic in most parts of Nigeria. Without a dedicated electricity supply system and numerous backups, companies might find it hard to deliver efficient service. This could be solved through exclusive supply agreements with reputable power companies. Finally, gondolas are unfamiliar systems in West African region.
There might be initial pushbacks from government administrations, alternative transport workers, and passengers concerned about safety. Nonetheless, we believe a well-crafted awareness campaign as well as an unflinching dedication to customer safety would eventually allay the fears of those concerned.
We see a clear investment opportunity in this niche of the urban transport industry. The business model could be expanded beyond Nigerian cities to other major West African cities facing similar urban transportation crisis. There are challenges. Nonetheless, they are not unsolvable.\
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