By Uche Nnadozie
As 2023 gets off on a smooth sail, the reality of the Blue line and the Red railway line has begun to hit home. Everywhere you turn along the two rail corridors, it is construction and more construction. If it is not overpasses, it is a massive train station.
The Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), created by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, during his tenure as governor (1999-2007), conceptualised and is supervising the 37-kilometre and 27-kilometre red and blue lines. Residents are so eager to see the first train move our people down the tracks to their destinations.
Lagos is the first sub-national to construct railways anywhere in the world. In this case, the state is constructing two. Even where national governments build intra-city railways, it’s usually not for long distances covering a combined 63-kilometre length.
The red line started by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will be completed by him before the end of March, this year.
Both corridors, experts say will transport 500,000 passengers each on a daily basis. That’s quite a feat that will greatly reduce pressure on our roads.
The joy brought about by the Lagos-Ibadan inter-state train rides has put more pressure on the delivery of the Lagos version of the service. Nearly every resident who sees the massive work going on and the Federal Government-backed beautiful standard gauge service feels a sense of pride knowing that in a matter of days and weeks, two separate corridors will open for use by commuters.
A safe, fast, comfortable train ride is what Lagos residents have dreamt of since the metro service was muted by the Lateef Jakande administration in the early 1980s. The older generation can’t but feel a sense of accomplishment seeing that the truncated mass transit service will be off the ground in their lifetime.
As we are aware, the colour codes are for brand differentiation. Well, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has equally added that the Blue line, which runs from Okokomaiko (near the Lagos State University) to CMS in Lagos Island is practically run on electric power.
Also, last year, the rolling stocks (coaches if you prefer) for the two services arrived in the country. Recently, another set of blue line rolling stocks arrived and was ready to start moving Lagosians on that corridor. It is obvious that Lagosians have seen with their eyes what they want to feel with their bodies.
If the importation of the coaches for the service was too wet appetite, it has done more than was thought. It is now simply about waiting to board. Thankfully, before this month runs out, President Muhammadu Buhari will be on hand to commission the blue line (first phase) covering CMS to Mile 2, which is 13 kilometres. He will also flag off the construction of the outstanding second phase from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko.
In Lagos, boarding any of the state-run modes of transportation has already been made easy. What experts call the multi-modal integrated transport system is one of a kind in Nigeria. Oh, this is not even the multiple modes of moving around in the state like buses, taxis, ferries, and soon trains, it is the mode of payment which has been democratised!
Today, with the Cowry card, you pay for your BRT ride, hop on your car-hailing LagRide or go on a ferry on our lagoons. And of course, from the end of this month, go on a train ride around town. The system is already seamless.
From what we have heard, the trains are very comfortable; comparable to what obtains anywhere in the world. Of course, the trains have classes within their coaches depending on the sort of fare you are able to afford or the level of comfort you desire.
What a lot of Lagosians appreciate most is the kind of work ongoing simultaneously. On the red line route, eight train stations are concurrently undergoing construction, not a renovation.
In Ikeja, the massive edifice has changed the skyline around the domestic airport general area. Upon getting out of the airport, travellers may not need to board exorbitant taxis if they live along the routes, nearest to a station.
People wonder just what that huge Ikeja station will offer. They will soon understand the ingenuity in its location: in front of it is the expressway/BRT lane that joins Lagos-Abeokuta expressway from Agege Motor Road; across the road is the airport; behind the station is the BRT terminal and a mall with a cinema; adjacent is the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, a post office, the world-renowned Computer Village and fire station. The localisation of these services can only have been a result of careful planning rather than a coincidence.
On this corridor is also a station at Agbado which comes with a workshop. There is another station in Agege; then Oshodi, Mushin, Tejuosho, Oyingbo, and more. We have been told the line would be extended to join the blue line somewhere in CMS.
The Blue line is even more interesting. The section from Mile 2 near FESTAC is ready. Governor Sanwo-Olu celebrated the completion of work on the corridor. So, people see it every day and wonder when the ride will set out.
The ambitious concrete overpass from Orile through the marshlands of the National Theatre area and over the Lagoon into CMS is equally done. Work on the iconic station is completed too.
By that station is a LagFerry jetty. Under the overhead rail track are the BRT corridor and terminal. Nothing can be more multi-modal. The integration of the three main transport systems in spite of the small land mass in Lagos is mind-blowing. It’s a product of good thinking and progressive planning.
That corridor has another station at the now refurbished National Art Theatre, serving the Costain area.
There are other stations already built at the Orile axis before the Mile 2 station.
For the Mile 2-Okoko section, the expressway is almost completed. The right of way is secured, and the BRT lane is ready; what’s left is the laying of tracks.
Lagosians cannot be prouder of their leaders at this time. Two railway corridors coming to life in their lifetime sounds like a fairy tale. But it’s true.
Commuting in Lagos would become more pleasurable seeing the efforts being put in place by the Sanwo-Olu administration. This is like buying one and getting two free. It’s only a servant-leader who thinks of people first and ways to ameliorate their daily struggles that can deliver on this scale. Lagos public transportation will not be the same again this year.