Though the importance of mass transportation in supporting urban life differs among cities, the Lagos State Government’s yearning for a mass transit system propelled by light rail cannot be divorced from a resolve to achieve an inclusive growth in a state that has since become a mega-city.
In achieving this performance oriented objective, the state government realised that infrastructural development remained a vehicle to drive the state’s ambitious plan to become Africa’s modern mega-city. Thus, it embarked on the construction of the Lagos-Badagry expressway 10-lane expansion of the road project which encompasses a light rail to achieve its economic development programme.
To most project analysts, areas with good public transit systems are economically thriving communities offering location advantages to businesses and individuals choosing to work or live in them.
They reasoned that when completed, the rail project will not only unleash a truly competitive private sector, but help galvanise other laudable projects like the $2 billion Lagos Energy City the state government is executing in partnership with some private sector in that axis.
Informed stakeholders who appraised the project believe that it will also help to reduce traffic congestion, travel times and air pollution in the state.
However, before the project got to this stage, there had been longer –term challenges worth bearing in mind that kept it in the limbo over the years.
The idea of developing a rapid wall transit in Lagos dates from the 1980s, with the Lagos Metro-line network conceived by the Alhaji Lateef Jakande administration during the Second Republic.
It was revived by the immediate past governor of the state Senator Bola Tinubu, in early 2000 with a formal announcement of its construction in December, 2003.
The project was tailored to be implemented by the newly formed Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA).
For a period of five years, it could not take off because LAMATA gave priority attention to the development of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, running from Mile 12 to Lagos Island.
Poised to harness the grassroot dynamism and entrepreneurial potentials lurking in the axis, LAMATA in 2008, began to make progress with the rail project with the Lagos State Government approving of ₦70 billion for construction of the Okokomaiko-Iddo-Marina Line.
In September 2011, LAMATA announced that it would be acquiring the older H5 and H6 series subway cars from public transit operator, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
It was gathered that the subway cars were those being decommissioned to make way for the TTC’s new articulated Toronto Rocket series subway cars that are being introduced.
Thereafter, they would be refurbished and converted to operate on international gauge in the United States before being put into service on the new Lagos Light Rail’s Blue and Red lines.
The Blue Line project is currently being built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and is designed to run 27.5 km from Marina to Okokomaiko, with 13 stations.
The project specification shows that end-to-end journey time will be approximately 35 minutes and it is being built as a high capacity, electrically powered rail mass transit system.
Most of the route will be on the surface, running east-west, in the central reservation of the rebuilt Badagry expressway between Igbo-Elerin road (Okokomaiko) and Iganmu.
The line will run on elevated structure from Iganmu along the south side of the expressway, passing the junction with Eric Moore road, crossing just south of the National Theatre to Iddo, then south to Lagos Island with a terminal at Marina.
Construction is underway between the National Theatre and Mile 2. A Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) will be constructed at Okokomaiko, with a track connection from the Blue Line to the depot.
The entire Blue Line will operate over a secure and exclusive right-of-way, with no level crossings and no uncontrolled access by pedestrians or vehicles.
With the Federal Government reneging on its agreement to partner with Lagos State to finance construction of the Blue Line, the state government is financing it its own way using facilities accruing to the state from various sources.
It is on record that the Lagos Light Rail is the first modern rail-based public transport in Sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa
The railway equipment including electric power, signalling, rolling stock and fare collection equipment will be provided by the private sector under a concessionaire that would generate its own dedicated electricity, while LAMATA would be responsible for policy direction, regulation and infrastructure for the network.