The vision for an integrated transport system is increasingly becoming a reality, writes Tayo Ogunbiyi

It is no longer news that the Lagos Blue Line Rail has commenced commercial operations. At exactly 9.07am, on Monday, September 4, 2023, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu boarded the train from the first coach and walked to the seventh coach.

The governor took it upon himself to be the ride manager, taking time to explain the requirements to board the train to the people. He was accompanied in the historic ride by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; Secretary to the State Government, Mrs. Bimbola Salu-Hundeyin; former Deputy Governor of the State, Otunba Femi Pedro; former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. (Hon.) Adeyemi Ikuforiji; Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and wife of the governor, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, among other government officials.

The ride from the Marina station to Mile 2 took between 17 and 20 minutes with 90secs at each station before the final destination. Earlier at an interactive session with newsmen, Sanwo-Olu urged residents to purchase the Cowry card to be able to make use of the facility, while also warning against pedestrian crossing the Rail track, which he said is electrically powered. The Governor thanked President Bola Tinubu for putting in place the transportation master plan in the State, which included the rail, waterways and road infrastructure.

He revealed that the Redline rail project, which is ninety six percent completed will be commissioned by the President before the end of the year.

“The various stations and bridges will also be commissioned at the end of September and October 2023”, he noted.

In her remarks, Managing Director, LAMATA, Engr. Abimbola Akiajo revealed that the train will begin with 12 trips daily for the first two weeks for test-running, but on full operation will run 76 trips from 5:30am till 10pm, carrying 175,000 passengers daily.

She added that the train will only stop for 90 seconds at every station to drop and pick passengers.

Akinajo noted that each terminal’s train will have a maximum stop time of 90 seconds, maintaining a strict schedule.

The service will operate both in the morning and evening phases, with ongoing tests during the day to ensure the trains are in proper condition.

The metro service will adhere to a fixed timetable, available at all stations and on the LAMATA website. “It’s a metro service, we will be working to the timetable and will be available at every station and LAMATA website”, she noted.

While noting that the rail tracks had been electrified, the LAMATA boss warned Lagosians to stay clear of the tracks, listing measures put in place to ensure safety to include installation of 300 cameras at every station and on the tracks. She, however, frowned at eating or drinking on the train, saying it will not be condoned in order to ensure sanity on it.

Each trip, Akiajo said, would cost N375 due to the present 50 per cent reduction in transport fare introduced by the governor, noting that it would, however, increase to N750 whenever the reduction is removed by the government.

Recall that the rail infrastructure was commissioned last January by former President Muhammadu Buhari. The milestone was a culmination of impactful reforms initiated in the State’s transport ecosystem, which started at the beginning of the Fourth Republic, under the then administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
With the successful commissioning of the project, Lagos has become the first sub-national government in Africa to fund and deliver a rail system from the state’s balance sheet.

The construction of the second phase of the project, which covers 14 kilometres, from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko, was launched immediately after the completion, and the inauguration of the first phase. 

The Blue Line – built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corp – links the mainland part of the city to Lagos Island. When it begins full operation, the Blue Line is expected to move about 250,000 passengers daily. The completed first phase of the project comprises five beautiful passengers’ stations at Mile 2, Alaba, Orile-Iganmu, National Theatre and Marina. The Marina train station is a major interchange where other modes of transportation, water and road, will integrate with the rail. 

The electricity powered rail system, unified payment system (Cowry Card), World standard cars that are automated, fitted with audio and visual communication systems and speedometer to deter speed above 80km/HR are examples of the integration of technology to the project aimed towards making Lagos a smart city.  

The Blue Line is a public infrastructure that will positively transform the lives of Lagosians. It is cheering to note that the passenger operation and maintenance of the train system will be concessioned to a capable operator to ensure its sustainability. 

 Managed by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), the 27-kilometer railroad line is one of the six rail lines and one monorail in the Lagos Strategic Transport Masterplan (STMP) to cater to public transport demand up till 2032. The master plan has six rail lines and one monorail, 14 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors, over 20 water routes and a number of major new roads. 

Powered by electricity and running at 80km/hour, the Blue Line cuts through the 10-lane Lagos-Badagry Expressway from Okokomaiko to Iganmu before soaring on a rail bridge from Iganmu to Marina.

The rail tracks are raised from Iganmu to Marina to achieve the lagoon level crossing for the rail tracks. For the safety of pedestrians, the entire rail tracks are securely fenced to deter any intrusion or crossing of the tracks.

At regular intervals, the Blue Line corridor is equipped with well-defined pedestrian bridges. The trains are also fitted with speed governors to deter speeds above 80km/hour.

The Blue Rail will certainly help to reduce the pressure on road traffic, especially as most people from the mainland work on the island.

The fact that it runs from Mile 2 all the way to Marina is even better, as it means it will pick up people from the Badagry axis coming to the island and also those of from Surulere. Residents of Orile and Iganmu can also join since the stations are there.

It will hasten business transactions, enhance the beautification of the environment, and speed delivery in terms of transportation. It will certainly attract foreign partnerships and private investments, which will boost the state’s earnings.

The milestone in the development of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit is the culmination of several impactful reforms in the transport ecosystem of Lagos, starting in 1999.

Over the last two decades, the project has been devotedly implemented by successive administrations.

When the second phase is completed, the entire project would take 500,000 people daily.

With the Blue Line, the Sanwo-Olu administration’s vision for an integrated transport system, as enunciated in the T.H.E.M.E.S PLUS agenda, is becoming a reality. Now, Lagosians can experience a multimodal system of transportation through the road, rail and waterways with an integrated mode of payment via the Cowry Card.

A Greater Lagos is, indeed, rising!  

Ogunbiyi is a Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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