Tunde Ajayi reckons the completion of the first phase of the 27- kilometer Blue

Line is a milestone 

The news last Wednesday was a cheery one. It was about the test-running and official announcement of the completion of the first phase of the 27- kilometer Blue Line from Marina to Mile 2. With it, the dream of a light rail in Lagos became a reality.

Leading, the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was accompanied by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, members of the State Executive Council, captains of industry, stakeholders and others boarded the train. And as the train coursed gently from Marina through National Theatre and past Suru Alaba towards Mile 2, it was pure joy on their faces from the novel experience as seen from the videos. They couldn’t be blamed. Who no like beta thing?

“This milestone in the development of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit is the culmination of several impactful reforms in the transport ecosystem of Lagos State, starting in 1999, the dawn of the fourth Republic, when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu assumed office as the governor,” said an evidently excited Sanwo-Olu.

On one side of the CMS train station is the Lagos Island Business District and on the other side is the Apapa Ports and from the train perched on overhead rails, one gets a commanding view of the waters bordering that axis. What a sight it must have been to make the Governor take to Twitter later to share highlights and post: “Enjoying the aquatic splendour of Lagos while riding on the Blue Line which will convey 200,000 passengers daily, making Lagos one of the world cities with a functional mass transit system is something every Lagos resident should be proud of.”

It’s indeed an event to be proud of given the significance of having such a modern means of public transportation. Also, considering that Lagos is just one of the 36 Nigerian states, it is a feat worthy of accolade.

For a project whose concept was first breathed by Governor Lateef Jakande, scuttled before it could be executed and later re-conceived by former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it must have been a relief to Sanwo-Olu to finally deliver it. From January, Lagosians on that axis would feel and enjoy the difference in public transportation the trains portend.

On the practical aspects, by the time the train starts operating, it is estimated that over 250, 000 passengers would ride on it daily. This number is estimated to eventually increase to 500, 000 passengers daily when the tracks are completed to Okokomaiko. The Governor also announced “that the three train sets for the commercial passenger operations for the Blue Line are already on ground.”

Though the rail line from CMS to Mile 2 runs for just 13 kilometers, at some times, especially during peak periods, driving that stretch could be nightmarish with heavy traffic. But with the trains, human movement along that corridor is going to be a breeze. With stations at CMS, National Theatre, Orile Iganmu, Suru Alaba and Mile 2, Lagosians on that axis now have cause to smile. And the huge reduction of man hours lost to road traffic is something that would be welcome by all.

Eventually, the second phase of the project would see the train go beyond Mile 2 to reach Okokomaiko with different stops along the way. 

In all, it’s been a long wait for the trains but I must say that it’s been worth it. For a state to build the first metro system of its kind in West Africa, it is definitely no mean feat. Aside from the heavy financing involved, there was also construction rigors as a section of the overhead rails from CMS was built across the Atlantic Ocean.

 “Construction of the Blue Line has been one of the most challenging projects undertaken by Lagos government, given many hitches that had to be overcome,” the Managing Director of LAMATA, Mrs Abimbola Akinajo, said.

“To get to the point of completion, we have had disturbances and delays in the relocation of submarine cables, gas pipelines, and the removal of shipwrecks. This made the construction of the submarine pillar extremely difficult.”

The journey of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) is indeed impressive. Prior to about 2005, the coastal state had the Molue as its transportation icon. The locally designed bus was usually mounted on the chassis of Bedford or Mercedes Benz trucks. They were very uncomfortable and a horror to commuters. However, presently the Molue buses are rarely seen on Lagos roads as the government-introduced BRT buses have virtually phased them out.

Now, another revolution is on the horizon as the Red and Blue lines of Lagos Metro System are set to begin running in 2023 from Agbado to CMS and Mile 2 to CMS respectively. Welcome to a new dawn in Lagos’ public transportation.

Also in the pipeline to complete the Strategic Transport Master Plan (STMP) are five other lines named after colors to traverse other parts of the state. These are the Green, Yellow, Purple, Brown and Orange Lines.

According to data from the Lagos State Motor Vehicle Administration Agency (MVAA), there are over five million cars and 200, 000 commercial vehicles on Lagos roads. Add this to the fact that the over 20 million residents in the state would need to move around, it can be quickly noted why Lagos is synonymous with traffic jams. This is not a desirable situation. In fact, a 2021 report by a Lagos-based research institute, Danne Institute for Research, noted that Lagosians lost an estimated 14.12 million hours in traffic while commuting to work daily. With the commencement of the Metro in 2023, more people would have reason not to drive, which would also reduce the traffic on the roads. Talk about a win-win solution.

That Lagos is bursting at its seams is an understatement. Hence, it needs all the infrastructure it can muster to effectively run. And as part of its transportation goal,  water transportation is also gaining the attention of the state government.

The desire is attaining an intermodal city transportation system comprising road, rail and water. This is gradually taking shape. And going with modern trends, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) said that a single payment system – the Cowry Card – which is already in use on the BRT buses and the Lagos State boats would also be used on the trains. Talk about envisioning efficiency and convenience.

Nothing good comes easy, many people say. But the spirit of Lagos is the can-do and never-giving-up one. As it stands now, many Lagosians including myself are patiently waiting for the commencement of the metro line next year to begin patronizing it. Who likes to be needlessly trapped in traffic when there is a comfortable option like the trains being provided?

Ajayi writes from Lagos

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