What to know about newly acquired Lagos passenger trains

A delegation of the Lagos State government led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was in Milwaukee, United States, on Tuesday, January 18, 2022, where it closed a deal on the purchase of two Talgo-built series 8 trains.

The two trains, which are projected to begin operation in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2023, will kick-start the first phase of the Lagos metro system.

The expected arrival of the trains and the commencement of operation of the first metro system in West Africa will lift 500,000 passengers daily.

Here are five things you need to know about the newly acquired trains:

To run on Lagos Red Line

The two Talgo-built trains were coincidentally painted white and red. Interestingly, both colours match the colour of the 37km Lagos Red Line rail system, which will run from Agbado, through Iju, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, Oyingbo, Iddo, Ebute-Ero, terminating at Marina.

The Red line will share the right-of-way of the Lagos–Kano Standard Gauge Railway, meaning that it will use the existing Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) corridor, constructed through a concession arrangement. The trains will run on a track that begins as a double line at Marina and runs through Ebute Ero ending at Iddo. It then runs northwards via a reverse curve to reach Ebute Metta. The line goes straight to Yaba, Mushin, and Oshodi before reaching Ikeja. At the Ikeja station, the Red line is linked to the line from the international and domestic airport terminals.

From Ikeja, a single line will run to the airport terminals. The Red line moves like a double line northwards from Ikeja to pass through Agege, Iju, and finally reaches Agbado.

With Governor Sanwo-Olu showing commitment to bringing the Red line project to reality, the trains are projected to start lifting passengers by the last quarter of 2022 or the first quarter of 2023.

Transform Lagos transport system:

With a population of 21 million people, Lagos is one of the most densely populated cities in Africa, and it is estimated that by 2025, it will be one of the five most populous cities in the world.

Currently, Lagos suffers from a congested transport system with limited rail transport and a developing road network with nerve-wracking traffic. In Lagos today, there are approximately 6 million individuals with daily transportation needs.

According to Governor Sanwo-Olu, the acquisition of the trains and their deployment will provide jobs, boost the Nigerian economy, and enable people move from one location to another with ease.

“A train is not something you can just go and pick up on the shelf. We are extremely lucky to get these brand new trains that are beautifully white and red in colour, coincidentally, the rail line is called Red line. We are just going to brand the trains and put our seal on them, and we hope that this will be the beginning of a mutually beneficial business relationship with Talgo,” explained the governor.

Products of political dispute:

The trains were originally built for a high-speed rail line to connect Madison and Milwaukee in the United States of America. They were built in 2012, have been unused for close to 10 years.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR), in 2009, Wisconsin’s then-Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, announced a deal with Talgo for two new trains to be built in the state and used for a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison.

In the same year, Wisconsin was awarded $810 million for the project in a federal stimulus bill. The plans died off after Republican Scott Walker became governor. But by 2012, Talgo had built the trains and sent an invoice to the state. Later that year, Talgo terminated the contract and sued the state, kicking off a court dispute that lasted almost three years.

Ultimately, under the terms of a settlement between Wisconsin and Talgo, the state paid the company a total of $50 million for the trains, which remained under the company’s ownership.

The trains sat unused in an Amtrak facility in Indiana for years, a lasting reminder of the dispute. They eventually returned to Talgo’s plant in Milwaukee in 2019.

Confirming this, Cavalier Johnson, acting Milwaukee Mayor, said when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, visited Milwaukee to close the deal.

He said it was a little disappointing that his people missed out on the opportunity to have those trains operate in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin.

On his part, Frank Busalacchi, the then Wisconsin’s Secretary of Transportation at the time the trains were built, said: “I am glad that they were able now to sell them to somebody, that somebody is going to use them. The fact that after many years, Talgo found a buyer for the trains, kudos to them.”

“It is what it is. They are moving on to Nigeria. Good for the Nigerians,” Bauman said.

Read also: Sanwo-Olu’s pledge on road and rail projects

Built with the latest technology:

The new trains were among the Talgo Series 8 passenger coaches and they are among the latest North American offering with similar features to the Series VII passenger cars.

It is Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) compliant, meaning that it has a lightweight aluminum body and compression collision requirements of the FRA for unrestricted service. The train has standard options that provide configurations with up to 600 seats.

Comes with unique features:

Talgo Series 8 trains were built to provide special features for wheelchair-bound passengers (ADA compliant). It has easy access from the side of the car; an individual audio receiver, volume control and a channel selector (four audio channels and two video channels), and music service with individual video/TV screens on the ceiling available for the entire car. It also has LCD screens in vestibules with information for passengers.

The train also has automatic activated exterior and interior inter-connecting doors; electrical outlets at all seats for charging laptop computers or other electrical appliances; internet availability; newspaper and magazine rack for passengers as well as one restroom in every second car, with eco-friendly vacuum toilets.

The train also has comfortable and ergonomic reclining seats equipped with footrests; individual folding tables while the business class has leather upholstery; the coach has individual reading lights with controls on armrests as well as spacious luggage rack compartments and baggage racks above the windows.

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