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What completion of Lagos rail lines means for residents, economy

The Lagos Blue Line light rail project comes as an accompaniment of the ambitious reconstruction and expansion of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway (LBE) from four to a 10-lane regional road.

In the estimation of Lagos residents and other keen watchers of the project, the completion of the rail lines promises a new lease of life and improved standard of living for residents living along the rail routes. There will be growth of businesses and sundry economic activities, and increased revenue for the government.

The Lagos State Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA) says it is certain that the impact of the two lines would be monumental, explaining that the rail lines would reduce traffic congestion.
They would also stimulate growth, development and job creation just as they are expected to promote the use of public transport; promote business tourism, and improve road traffic safety.

Additionally, the projects are expected to improve the image of public transportation and attract more car users to public transport; increase travel efficiency and workers’ productivity
“It will improve the quality of the environment – air and life. Our projection is that the first phases of the two rail lines would cut down congestion on the two rail routes by more than 50 percent,” LAMATA said.

From 2009, when the Blue Line was started by Babatunde Fashola as Lagos governor, it could be said that the project has dragged on, more so when a similar light rail project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that was started two years after that of Lagos has been completed and operating since 2015.

But there is good news which is that its completion is now in sight, according to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who is assuring Lagosians that, by the last quarter of 2022, the project would be completed.

By its nature, rail transportation is a mass transit system which explains why the goal of the rail lines is to reduce traffic gridlock in the metropolis, particularly along the Mile 2-Okokomaiko-Marina corridor. Specifically, the approximately 27-kilometer Blue Line is aimed to facilitate development of economic activities along its route.

Read Also: CBN finances Lagos blue line rail project with N110bn

At the moment, the whole Mile 2 – Okokomaiko – Badagry corridor could be described as an ungoverned part of Lagos where life for residents is not only difficult and nasty, but also risky. These areas pass easily as urban slums in a mega city which Lagos has become by sheer number.

Daily life outside the state’s city centre where over 70 percent of its huge population resides is a case study in suffering, stress and misery. The daily life of slum dwellers begins at 4am and ends earliest at 11pm when they retire home after a stressful and hectic commute to the city centre for trade or work.

From the foregoing, it is understandable why an average Lagos resident on the Mile 2–Oluti–Alakija-Abule–Ado–Ojo-Alaba–Okokomaiko– Ijanikin- -Agbara–Badagry axis cannot wait to see the completion of the expressway and the accompanying light rail. According to them, it will be a new dawn.

This was why when the reconstruction of the expressway started and progressed, albeit slowly, with several shifts in completion dates, many people and businesses migrated to that axis, taking position for the opportunities that would come with road infrastructure.

Many of them were, however, disillusioned after 12 years of reconstruction work with no hope of completion in sight. Some have relocated either their residence or businesses or both. Others who remained are living and hoping, enduring the pain of an area that takes more than it gives.

With the state government’s promise that the rail lines would be ready for use, expectations are not only a life, but also high that it would be a new dawn that would be manifesting in:
Reduced travel time and cost for residents.

At the moment, commuting from the areas along the rail routes is a nightmare in terms of cost and risk. That is why the completion of the rail lines would mean reconnection with the larger Lagos society and commuting to the city centre. It would also mean moving faster, cheaper and safer.

“As you can see, this is the headquarters of Okada (commercial motorcycle) riders in Lagos, if not the whole of Nigeria. Every morning you see residents being ferried to Mile 2 from as far as Badagry and Okokomaiko. There are more than 1000 motorcycles on the road at any given minute, carrying two passengers at a time,” Raphael Okoli, who lives in Agbara and works in Festac Town, told BusinessDay.

“I spend more than N2,000 on Okada to go to work every day. If you multiply that by 30 days in a month, you will see it is not small money. I am not talking about the risk, the stress and the health implications,” he added, noting that “the completion of this rail line would mean so much for us in this part of town.”

Opens up communities and creates wealth

By its nature, the provision of infrastructure opens up communities and creates wealth for the residents and the government. “One of the things building infrastructure brings to an environment is change in the faculty of the people. Many areas in Lagos can be categorized as urban-slum. Even the prime neighbourhoods like Victoria Island and Lekki are a mixture of shanties and cities, Tade Cash, Wealth Island Properties (WIP) managing director, noted.

Cash, who is developing a moderate estate along the LBE, explained that urban slums lead to infrastructure deficit, adding that such areas could be a hide out for social miscreants which defeats the government’s vision to build cities and have a safe environment.

Many estate developers have also taken positions such as Multi-Infrastructure Development Company (MIDC) who is developing about 500 mid-income housing units along the expressway.

Opportunities in real estate business

Overall, the economic importance of both the expressway and the rail lines cannot be overemphasized. The expressway is a gateway to Seme, Benin Republic, Ghana, Togo and others. It will not only promote regional trade, but also the development of sundry businesses along the route.

It is expected that these will come with demand for real estate assets, meaning that there will be more investment opportunities in real estate by individuals and estate development companies.

“Lagos State government should see its completion of both the rail line and the expressway as a moral duty and also part of its efforts to boost international economic activities that could also boost its own economy,” Okoli surmised.

Already, many Lagos citizens have invested in property in this corridor only waiting for both the expressway and the rail line to be completed so they can move in. From these prospective residents and businesses, the state government will be generating revenue that will enable it to provide more road infrastructure and other social amenities for the citizens.

Decongesting the city centre

The expectation is that both the expressway and the rail line will attract more people to that axis, thereby decongesting the city centre which is already bursting at its seams because of over-crowding.

There will also be investment opportunities for both individuals and business organisations. The Blue Line is expected to have 1000 station parking spaces, meaning that opportunities exist for investors on Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis through a design, build, operate and transfer (DBOT) model to provide parking lots along the whole corridor or to select a strategic group of parking locations.

There will also be opportunities for commercial advertisement such as electronic digital displays on passenger information systems, electronic and print media bill boards at station platform areas, and on top of station buildings.

“There will be provision for branded station bus stops, shelter and taxi parking ranks. There will be an opportunity to develop shopping facilities for fast food and confectionary kiosks, flower stalls, vending machines, ATM Centres and other commercial activities,” a rail infrastructure expert, who did not want to be named, confirmed.

The expert noted that rail transportation was what Lagos needed at the moment given its status as a mega city. He cited the Cairo Metro which, he said, was the solution to the city’s traffic challenges that were worse than what Apapa used to be in Lagos.

“Like Lagos, Cairo is one of the world’s largest cities with a population of just under 20 million. Its metro system has three lines. A fourth and a fifth are expected to be built in the future. Currently, Line 2 is moving passengers around the city,” he disclosed.

He added that 500 million passengers and 12 million tons of freight are transported on the urban rail network each year by the Cairo Metro, which, he noted, has all the features of Lagos as a sprawling city.

The Blue Line, he stressed, will be coming to change the narrative in Lagos traffic, especially for people on the Lagos Badagry axis who, according to him, would have a new song to sing.

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