By Oludare Mayowa
On January 24, 2023, the immediate past president, Mohammadu Buhari, came to Lagos to commission the light rail from Okokomaiko to Lagos Marina, christened the Blue Line. The majority of Lagosians had expected that the project had been completed and was ready to roll off.
The project, which was started during the administration of former governor Babatunde Fashola, has gone through major challenges, including its abandonment by the administration of Akinwunmi Ambode for the period of four years he spent in office.
So, when the government of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who has shown some measure of performance in office, decided to complete the project, a number of Lagosians heaved a sigh of relief, believing that the days of long stays in traffic on the corridor of the state were over.
Their hope was equally raised by the decision of the state governor to embark on the Red Rail Line that runs from Alagbado to Oyingbo in the first instance and then to Marina as a final solution to the troubling traffic in the state and the determination of the government to provide relief for the suffering commuters.
Sanwo-Olu had promised in April last year that the Blue Line rail was at 90 percent completion, maintaining that the project would be delivered in the first quarter of next year (Q1 2023).
The government indeed fulfilled its promise when the former president came to the city of Lagos ahead of the election to commission the project with all pomp and pageantry. What Lagosians expected thereafter was that the rail would commence operation immediately and provide relief for the long-suffering commuters.
Alas! The state government rather decided to embark on a test run of the rail after it was commissioned, inviting all manner of professionals, groups, and personalities in the state to take a ride on the train coaches.
The fanfare lasted for all of the period preceding the election and months after the election in an apparent measure to garner electoral support for the governor and his party at the elections of February 25 and March 18.
Well, for a governor who seems to have worked very hard to deliver some of his promises in the course of his first term in office, the strategy was seen as a good idea, and the governor’s reelection thereafter was like icing on the cake.
However, the waiting game seems to have been prolonged, and no one is talking to the people of the state about the reason behind the delay in flagging off the operation of the long-awaited train.
A visit to the outer Marina end of the train terminal showed little or no activity, which means that even the regular test run by the government has since ceased while expectations by the people of the state on the commencement date for the operations of the Blue Line rail are marred by stone-deaf silence on the part of the government.
Efforts to contact the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), the operator of the state’s transport system officials to get its response and update on the state of the train yielded no positive response.
However, on Friday, Global Financial Digest’s efforts to get an official position on the situation of the Blue Line rail Service paid off with a prompt response from the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Gboyega Akosile.
He assured the public that all hands are on deck to ensure the commencement of operation of the Blue Line rail in October this year.
“Yes, there’s a timeline for the commencement of commercial operations. The commercial operations will commence by October this year, “barring any disruption.”
According to him, the delay in the takeoff of the train service was due to the failure of the contractors building the dedicated power plants that would power the operation of the train on schedule as a result of multiple headwinds.
“The slight delay was due to the dedicated power plants being built by the State Government. The contractors could not deliver on schedule due to the volatility in the global economy caused by the COVID pandemic.
“As we speak, they’re working day and night to ensure that the power/electricity end of the train completes before the end of August or early September this year.
“We are very optimistic that, barring any disruption, everything will be completed before mid-September, and we’ll start commercial operations immediately after,” Akosile told Global Financial Digest.
A functional rail system in the state would have taken a huge burden off the road transport system and helped reduce the spate of insecurity occasioned by heavy traffic on the road that encourages traffic robbers to punch on commuters and rob them of their valuables.
Besides the danger of traffic robbery, the operations of the rail system would have reduced the travel time for commuters on Lagos roads, increased productivity, and enhanced the quality of life of the citizens as the stress they go through in traffic would have been reduced considerably.
At a time like this, when many Lagosians are groaning as a result of the surge in transport fares due to the removal of fuel subsidies and the subsequent impact on motorists, a functional rail system would have brought great relief to residents of Lagos.
Writing on the ‘Impact of Lagos Blue and Red Line Rail System on Education Sector” in March this year, one Owolabi Falana stated that “History has been made in Lagos State with the completion of the 13km electronic-powered Lagos Blue Line Rail Phase 1 Scheme (Marina to Mile2) infrastructure, which was tested on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, and officially commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 24, 2023.
“It is crucial to note that a lot of our teachers reside in border towns like Akute, Agbado, Sango, Ijoko, Ota, Matogun, Iju, and others, which are on the Red Line route, while places like Igbesa, Agbara, Ado-Odo, and environs, which are in Ogun State, will benefit from our Blue Line project once it is fully operational.
“We have hundreds of our teachers, as well as many traders and business operators, coming from these border towns to work in Lagos, and with the completion of the Lagos Blue and Red Line Rail System,
“I believe that their disposable incomes and productivity will greatly increase and their stress levels will drastically reduce to a bearable level. Additionally, students living near the axis will be able to commute freely and more quickly from and to their various educational institutions. As a result, this will significantly aid in the teaching and learning process and lead to better learning outcomes.”
Falana, who is a Permanent Board Member at the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, also wrote that the completion of the rail “and other notable initiatives to raise the standard of living for every Lagosian, Mr. Sellable and our working Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwoolu, have set a remarkable record for a Greater Lagos, and he is undoubtedly poised to do more. I think the Lagos State Government under our amiable Governor deserves a resounding clapping ovation for this unprecedented achievement.”
This article, which was published on the website of the state government, was based on the presumption that the project was ready for operations and would soon kick-off to provide the needed relief for Lagosians.
Lagosians cannot wait to see the Blue Line rail in operation as soon as practicable because of the multiplier effect on traffic and the cost of transportation, especially at a time when the federal government decided to remove fuel subsidies, triggering a surge in transport fares.
The expectation is high, and it is also envisaged that the commencement of the train in Lagos will launch the country’s commercial nerve center into the league of major cities in the world with functional multimodal transport systems.
Besides, it will be a realization of the dream first pioneered by the late governor of the state, Lateef Jakande, in the 1980s, shortly before the Buhari-led military coup of 1983, which put paid to the lofty project of a metroline in the state.
(Edited by Oludare Mayowa; firstname.lastname@example.org; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)