Will Red Line be tonic to transportation in Lagos?

President Bola Tinubu will, tomorrow, inaugurate the second metro line system in Lagos, making the state the first sub-national government to have two intra-city train systems.

When he performed the groundbreaking of the Red Line Train on April 15, 2021 (after the COVID-19 pandemic), Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu never had a clue how he was being positioned for a historic assignment.

By tomorrow, (a unique day in itself, being a leap year), he would be hosting the third civilian governor of the state, and now, Nigeria’s President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who will inaugurate the train service.

The crystallisation of a dream

Tinubu took the audacious step to establish the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (LAMATA), in December 2003, and the agency which marked 20 last year, has been transforming the state’s transportation landscape (not only with the BRT scheme but also with the transformation of the waterways and developing a six-colour-coded rail line, two of which the Tinubu administration had then unveiled) as part of measures to encourage public sector transportation.

Transportation has been a herculean challenge that had defied successive administrations since the creation of the state in 1967. Though the first civilian administration of the late Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande had attempted a metro line that would have completely changed the narrative of intra-city commuting in the growing city-state and then Federal Capital, the gains were reversed by the successive military administration and the uninformed and ill-prepared private operators continued to play a dominant role in commuting in a state that was emerging as Nigeria’s fastest growing city and the black man’s pride.

Several alternatives among which were the odd and even number codes, the colour codes, and hackney permit codes were adapted several times to no avail, as the growing demands for more modern transit alternatives become more pronounced in the nation’s commercial capital and economic nerve centre.

All of these informed the radical path of the Tinubu administration which realised early the need to create a separate entity to superintend over its transportation initiatives. In December 2003, it berthed LAMATA, which over time became the lead agency in planning, initiating, and implementing the government’s transportation initiatives.

The new dream

LAMATA, arguably Nigeria’s foremost mobility agency, is changing the mobility narrative of the state, from an over-dependent, mono-modal transit, that is road, to a multi-modal system where the state is becoming a major player in the transportation landscape as it gradually enlarged its share even on the road alternative with the bus reform, (which saw the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), to the medium and lately the First and Last Mile Buses).

To these, the state has injected modern ferries for water transit and has built two rail systems–the first, (the Blue Line) delivered last year, after 17 years of construction and the Red, wholly built by the Sanwo-Olu administration and completed in less than three years.

The 37km line, which was divided into two phases, will have the first phase run from Agbado–Oyingbo, with stacking yards at both ends, that is Agbado and Oyingbo. It has seven train stations, six of which were built by the Sanwo-Olu administration. The stations are at Oyingbo, Mushin, Yaba, Ikeja, Fagba, and Agbado, while the second phase would run from Oyingbo to the National Theatre, on an elevated platform.

 The Blue Line had earlier been delivered in January last year. The electric train corridor, which has five stations has been running 75 scheduled train services since it commenced commercial operation on September 4, last year and has carried over 700,000 passengers since it flagged off full operation on the first phase of the train service which runs from Marina – Mile 2. The second phase, which started last year, is to commence from Mile 2 – Okokomaiko.

 The new train system – Red Line, would add to the commuting alternative for Lagosians as they move daily for business and leisure within the state.

 The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, tweeting on his X handle @gbenga_omo who, along with other executive council members, took a ride with the governor on the Talgo train on Saturday, described the train ride, a test drive, as “smooth, steady stable and seductive.” He could hardly wait for the full commercialisation of the corridor by tomorrow.

Sanwo-Olu was ecstatic, as he described the Red Line as the game changer and the real deal for Lagosians. Writing under his X-handle @jidesanwoolu, the governor said “Excitement is in the air as we gear up for the inauguration of the project by Mr. President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu tomorrow.”

He described the project as a testament to the state’s commitment to progress and innovation, saying under him, the state was on track to greatness.

Inaugurating the Ikeja Mega Station recently, Governor Sanwo-Olu had described the Red Line as a testament to the audacity of a dream, adding that his administration’s greatest joy was that it gave Lagosians the two train systems his predecessors had tinkered with in the past 18 years.

Besides the Blue and Red lines, the Tinubu administration had thought of a ring of colour-coded rail lines around the state. These are the Green Line, which runs from Marina to Lekki and would free traffic around the Lekki Free Zone and Dangote Petroleum and Fertilizer Complex, which also had the Lagos Airport. There are also the Brown, the Purple, and the Yellow Lines, all of which are to be procured under the public-private partnership format, using the two pilot lines as development templates.

By delivering the two rail lines, Sanwo-Olu put Lagos fully into the community of train-friendly states, and the only subnational government in Africa with two metro rail lines.LAMATA is busier, with a mix of road and rail land modes to manage for the state.

The Red Line, which got its first rolling stock, the Talgo train, from the State of Milwaukee in the United States, the governor had disclosed, would be adding more rolling stocks before the end of the year as the governor had ordered new stocks from the China Rail Rolling stock Construction Corporation (CRRCC), during his last working visit to China.

He also assured of the construction of the Green Line, the engineering design of which he said had been concluded, he disclosed that the government had started shopping for interested parties to key into its construction.

LAMATA’s Managing Director Mrs. Abimbola Akinajo, described the Red Line as another legacy project of the Sanwo-Olu administration and a testament to the commitment of the government to add to the livability index of the state. She said with the Red Line, another mobility alternative has been added to the mix for Lagosians who now have the opportunity of using train service on the western flank, just as they have been doing on the eastern flank since the last quarter of 2023.

 She said the Red Line, which shared the same standard gauge corridor with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), operators of the national rail networks, would when fully operational carry about one million passengers daily from Agbado to Oyingbo and back, while on each of the stations are auxiliary services that when fully occupied would ensure the smooth operations of train services.

She lauded the NRC for its total support and commitment it has continued to render towards the actualization of the red line, adding that but for the critical support, the project might not have reached this stage.

She equally Ogun State Government for its support and commitment at the critical stage of the project which saw to the smooth settlement of compensations to those affected at Agbado and adjoining communities which paved the way for the stabling yard of the project.

She said discussions were ongoing with the Ogun State Government on how the lines would be extended farther into the state, adding that all of these were possible due to the support and cooperation that existed between the two brother governors.

NRC Managing Director Fidet Okhiria praised the commitment and tenacity of Lagos State Government which started the two rail projects at a time when train investments were still under exclusive list, and playing with a hostile opposition at the federal level. He added that while the state continues to blaze the trail, other states ought now to be challenged to embrace intra-city train service and bring train services/systems closer to their people.

He said Kaduna, Kwara and Plateau states were discussing with the corporation to connect their cities with rail lines from the national rail network, adding that the essence of the mandate to link all state capitals by rail is to ensure that new lines could be constructed by states willing to deploy rail systems to their domains.

He said the NRC Act 2023 as amended has pushed railways into the concurrent list and states as well as non-state actors and investors can play in the railway sub-sector and provide alternatives to commuting Nigerians.

By Adeyinka Aderibigbe

Credit: The Nation

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