By Henry Umahi

One of the problems confronting Lagos residents is the perennial traffic congestion in the state. Over the years, moving from one part of the state to another is serious torture.  But there is hope of a new dawn. With the groundbreaking ceremony of the new rapid rail system in the state, there is hope that before the end of next year, the transport landscape will improve commuting and connectivity in the state. 

What that means is that the grueling traffic snarls will be a thing of the past or reasonably reduced. That certainly would be it: commuting without tears. It is envisaged to move more than one million commuters daily when completed. 

According to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, by the time the new rapid rail system is fully completed and operational in December 2022, the resultant multi-modal transport system will birth a new lease of commuting experience in terms of comfort and choice in Lagos. He added that being part of the traffic management plan designed to actualise the Lagos Rail Mass Transit master plan, the state expects the two lines (Red and Blue Lines) to change the state’s chaotic transport landscape in a way unprecedented in Nigeria’s economic nerve center. 

The Red Line, a project of LAMATA, will have eight train stations – from Agbado to Oyingbo. The Red Line, designed to complement the Blue Line that traverses from Okokomaiko to Marina, is expected to raise mass transportation capacity in the state. The Blue Line is at 78 per cent completion.

The Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) Red Line project is the second light rail project of the state. The construction of the first line, the LRMT Blue Line project, began in 2010. According to Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), both projects are part of the state’s ambitious strategic transport master plan, which aims to meet the rising demands of future transportation in the state.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Sanwo-Olu described the project as another initiative of his administration to frontally address the state’s transport menace and deliver enduring infrastructure for the transport system and make Lagos a competitive megacity. 

He said:  “Our desire is to achieve improved connectivity amongst transport modes, making commuting within Lagos easy as well as business-like for every Lagosian and visitor. An efficient and sustainable transportation system will increase mobility, improve living conditions and promote economic growth. The Lagos Gross Domestic Product accounted for 26.7 per cent of Nigeria’s total GDP and more than 50 per cent of non-oil GDP. Over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s non-oil industrial capacity is located in Lagos. Since transportation is the backbone of any economy, it then means we need to invest in our transport infrastructure so that our people can meet their daily targets and aspirations.”

According to the General Manager of LAMATA, Mrs. Abimbola Akinajo, “these two lines will change the transport landscape of Lagos when operational. We have a transport master plan, which speaks to the vision of Sanwo-Olu on transportation. We have six rail lines and one monorail, 14 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors, over 20 water routes and we are sure that when all of these are properly harnessed, Lagos will join the league of cities with an efficient transport system.

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“We have advertised four other rail lines for the private sector to invest. We are working on the private sector so they could bring in about 1,500 high capacity buses by 2022. We would be launching our First Mile Last Mile scheme very soon. We are working on the construction of two interchanges at Mile 2 and CMS. We want to ensure that Lagosians travel in comfort. The plan is to ensure that Lagosians begin to enjoy the benefits of an intermodal integrated transport system, which provides choices for Lagos commuters without stress to achieve their daily commute needs, and meet up their economic and social engagements.”

Akinajo explained that the Lagos Rail Mass Transit is an urban rail system with equipment, including electric power, signaling, rolling stock and fare collection equipment. The facilities will be provided by the private sector under a concession contract while LAMATA is responsible for policy direction, regulation, and infrastructure for the network. The Red Line will be 30km long, and will run between Marina and Agbado; just as the Blue line will be 27km long, connecting Okokomaiko to Marina.

In his address at the ceremony, Jiang Yigao, managing director of the CCECC, said the project was another great milestone of the state for solving transportation challenges in line with the government’s development blueprint. According to him, the 32-km Red Line will be constructed in three phases, and will run from Agbado, a suburban area of the state to Marina, a top business district. “It is noteworthy that the project, when completed, will ensure faster movement of people and will reduce the congestion on the roads,” Jiang said.

Sanwo-Olu explained that the north-south mass transit line running 37km from Marina to Agbado is to be built in three phases, with the initial section between Agbado to Oyingbo serving eight stations expected to be operational by the last quarter of 2022. The bulk of the route between Agbado and Iddo will share an alignment with NRC’s Lagos – Ibadan main line, which has recently been reconstructed to 1 435 mm gauge. Dedicated tracks are to be provided for the suburban service between Oyingbo and the main line terminus at Ebute-Metta.

According to him, the southern section of the route will follow a new alignment from Ebute-Metta to Marina, where interchange will be provided to the 27km east-west Blue Line from Okokomaiko, which has been under construction since 2010, and is reported to be 78 per cent complete. The Red Line, which is expected to cut journey times between Agbado and the city centre from the current 2½ hours to around 35 minutes, is projected to carry more than 1 million passengers/day when fully operational. The first phase will have a design capacity for 500 000 passengers/day.

The Red Line will interchange with local bus services at Oyingbo, Yaba, Oshodi, Ikeja and Iju. It would also connect with the future Orange Line from Ikeja to Agbowa, while an elevated walkway would connect the railway to Murtala Muhammed International Airport. First proposed as long ago as 1983, the Red Line is being funded through a government financing package put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria, described as a Differentiated Cash Reserve Requirement. “Today’s flag-off for the construction of infrastructure for the Red Line demonstrates our commitment to achieve the objectives of traffic management and transportation pillar in our development agenda. We recognise the role which an efficient transportation system plays in enhancing people’s quality of life and as a major driver of socio-economic development.”

Of course, being a massive infrastructure project, this would not be feasible without displacement and alteration to existing physical structures in the state. To minimize the effect of such displacements to people and businesses, Sanwo-Olu said the state government had worked out a generous compensation package for all those directly and indirectly affected by verifying all bona-fide property owners in areas earmarked for the project. And to walk his talk, the governor commenced compensation payment for identified 263 Project Affected Persons (PAPs) of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit Red Line.

During the ground breaking ceremony, cheques of various amounts as compensation were presented to 25 residents/tenants out of 263 whose properties, businesses and accommodation would be affected by the project. While explaining that beneficiaries were those who had been verified to be bona-fide property owners, business owners and tenants of the affected buildings, Sanwo-Olu said the presentation of cheques to the other PAPs would continue subsequently so as to reduce their pains. Appreciating the sacrifices of all the PAPs, he said the names of all those that forfeited their belongings would be permanently etched in the annals of development history of the state as those made it possible for Lagosians to enjoy a better lease of life in terms of living and commuting in the ever-expanding metropolis.