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Explainer: What to know about Lagos’ rail ambition

Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub is a city where millions of people live, work and traverse the Mainland and the Island.

Occupying 3,345 square kilometres of which about 22 percent are covered by lagoons and creeks, making Lagos not only the smallest of Nigeria’s 36 states by landmass, but also a city under intense pressure from inadequate public infrastructure for its growing population.

In 2006, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), a World Bank-assisted agency of the Lagos State government, secured an approval to develop Lagos Light-Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) system.

It was an audacious move that will see to the development of six rail lines and a monorail that will daily carry millions of commuters across different parts of the state.

The proposed rail systems are a part of the Lagos Strategic Transport Master (along with the Lagos Urban Transport Project) that seeks to integrate rail lines, 14 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and 26 water routes.

According to LAMATA, the urban transport implementation agency of the state, the six rail systems that are differentiated by colours are: Green line, Purple line, Yellow line, Orange line, Blue line and Red line.

Green Line is a 68km rail designed to run through Marina, Victoria Island, Lekki Phase 1, Ajah, Lekki 2, Ogombo, Elepetu, Eluju, Lekki Airport and Lekki Free Trade Zone and projected to carry over 495,000 passengers per day at starting, rising to over a million in 2031.

Purple Line is a 60km rail designed to run through Redemption Camp, Mowe, Long Bridge, Isheri, Toll Gate, Omole, Ogba, Agege, Iyana Ipaja, Isheri Osun, Igando, Iba, Estate, LASU, Okokomaiko and Ojo. It is projected to move 549,000 per day, and could do 1.3 million by 2031.

Read Also: Lagos rail lines begin commercial operations 2023 – Sanwo-Olu

Yellow Line is a 34km rail system designed to traverse Otta, Meran, Alimosho, Ipaja, Isheri Osun, Ejigbo, Mafoluku, Isolo, Surulere and the National Theatre, with a projected daily capacity of 238,000 passengers, rising to 486,000 passengers in 2031.

Also captured in the rail mass transportation plan is Orange Line:
This 48km line is designed to run through Ikeja, Alausa, Magodo, Mile 12, Irawo, Itolowo, MajidunAwori, Majidun Ogolonto, Agric Ikorodu, Alapadi, Maya, Eligana, Isiwu, Ibere, Imota and Agbowa in Ikorodu, and will move about 378,000 daily by 2031.

While these four rail lines have remained only on paper, the Blue and Red lines have been receiving attention.

With an estimated 20 million population, Lagos conveniently ranks the most populous West African city, but the city lags peers like Johannesburg and Cairo in organised and efficient public transportation systems.

The Johannesburg Park Station in South Africa, which is the centre of the Witwatersrand Metrorail network, with daily commuter rail services running west to Carletonville, Randfontein and Soweto; east to Springs, Nigel and Daveyton; north to Pretoria and south to Vereeniging. The Park Station is also the terminus of Shosholoza Meyl long-distance services to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, among other locations.

Unlike Johannesburg, the absence of an efficient public transportation system in Lagos, analysts believe, has thrown up what is now seen as an ‘Okada economy,’ an aberration in a 21st Century city where commercial motorcycles are taking over major roads to offer services as traffic congestion locks down vehicles.

As part of the solutions to address this anomaly, a former governor of Lagos, Babatunde Fashola, relying on the public transportation master plan designed by LAMATA, flagged off the construction of a Blue Line rail system at Orile-Iganmu in 2009. This raised hopes, especially among residents who ply the Okokomaiko-Mile 2, Alaba-Orile- National Arts Theatre- CMS- Marina route.

The 27-kilometre rail line from Okokomaiko to Marina is designed to be developed in phases, with LAMATA as supervisor, and the China Construction and Civil Engineering Company (CCECC) as the contractors.

The rail system is designed to lift 500,000 passengers daily. The first phase will be running from Mile 2 to Marina with stop-overs at Orile-Iganmu and National Arts Theatre in a journey that is faster, safer, reliable, and efficient.

The system, according to LAMATA, will be coming with an added advantage of reduced fares compared to the unregulated commercial buses on that route, 45 minutes travel time as against the current average of two hours, as well as cut congestion by 50 percent.

Beyond this, the rail line is conceived to encourage the use of a public transportation system with thousands of vehicles to be taken off the road in what will reduce the present level of carbon emissions in the densely populated commercial city.

“The project has taken off; the baby has been born; it is left for us to nurture it to adulthood. This is going to be the most impactful project this state has ever had. You can only imagine the number of people that will be employed, both directly and indirectly, when the project is finished. It will reduce travel time and all the stress associated with traffic will be removed.

Lagosians will travel in comfort,” said Fashola in 2012, three years into the life of the project.

But, more than a decade after commencement, the project has dragged, dimming hope and expectation.

However, the current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has rekindled hope, promising to complete and deliver the project in 2022.

During a tour of the Blue line and Red line rail project sites in September, Sanwo-Olu said the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) project would be completed by the last quarter of 2022.

Earlier in the year, April precisely, Sanwo-Olu performed the ground-breaking of another important rail line- the 37-km Red Line, which will run from Agbado to Oyingbo.

According to him, flagging off construction work on the Red Line represents a major breakthrough in his administration’s drive to deliver an integrated transportation model that would ease road congestion in the state.

“We are excited about the ongoing rail projects being undertaken by the state government. There are jobs being provided to Nigerians engaged by the contractor at all stages of the construction work.

“Three of the stations will be constructed with the Lagos-Ibadan Railway Modernisation Project by the federal government at Agbado, Agege and Ebute Metta Junction. The remaining six would be constructed as independent stations at Iju, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin Yaba and Oyingbo.

“The phase two which would be mostly elevated would have stations at Iddo and Ebute-Ero before terminating at Marina where a huge interchange is planned to manage commuters on the Red, Green and Blue Rail lines, BRT buses and those using the waterways.

Some unique characteristics of the Red Line, according to Fredrick Oladeinde, the Lagos State commissioner for transportation, are its integration with the Ikeja Bus Terminal, Oshodi – Abule-Egba Bus Rapid Transit, the future Orange Line, which goes from Ikeja to Agbowa, and the General Aviation Terminal One of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport through a skywalk.

This particular station which has been appropriately named Ikeja Train Centre also has facilities for park and ride and commercial spaces. Also, the Oshodi Train Station will integrate with the Oshodi Bus Terminal and there’s provision for adequate park and ride services and commercial spaces.

“What we have seen at the Ikeja Station, which is the second biggest station after the one being built at Marina, gives us so much hope that the projects are on course.

“Based on the physical assessment, we believe that the timelines set for the completion of major engineering work are on track. We believe that our contractor is working on schedule.

“Although there are a few hiccups, we believe we will be able to address and surmount them. By the last quarter of 2022, we hope that trains will move on both corridors. And by 2023, we expect to see the full operation of both Blue and Red Lines,” Sanwo-Olu assured.

To ensure delivery of the project on the set date, the state government has decided that there would be quarterly assessments and monitoring of the two rail projects, to avoid pitfalls that can stall the progress of work being done.

The Red Line is to have six over-passes constructed at strategic level crossings to eliminate interactions between the rail tracks, vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Speaking specifically on the Blue Line, Sanwo-Olu said the Marina Terminus would be a transportation hub offering intermodal transportation services to Lagosians.

“At the Marina Station, not only are we building rail tracks, underneath we will have a bus station as well, for the BRT and First-and-Last Mile buses.

“There will also be a ferry service at the Marina Station for those who want to travel on the waterways,” he said.

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