Monday, 2nd October 2023

A decade after, Lagos rail project still crawling

By Gbenga Salau
01 July 2018   |   4:25 am
As an emerging megacity, Lagos surely needs diverse transportation modes to facilitate movement of its over 20 million residents, especially given its smallness.Over the years, land transportation has been the major means of moving around the state due to the absence of rail transportation....

Light rail bridge at Orile

As an emerging megacity, Lagos surely needs diverse transportation modes to facilitate movement of its over 20 million residents, especially given its smallness.Over the years, land transportation has been the major means of moving around the state due to the absence of rail transportation, while water transportation is still developing.As a result of this mono transportation mode, a lot of man-hour is lost daily due to ever-present traffic snarl and the general chaotic traffic situation on Lagos roads.

In an attempt to respond to the challenge, the state government gave serious considerations to intermodal transportation system. In the area of rail transportation, the idea of developing a light rail network for Lagos was resuscitated by former governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in the early 2000s, with a formal announcement of its construction in December 2003, after an earlier attempt failed. The initial $135m proposal was part of the greater Lagos Urban Transportation Project, which was to be implemented by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA).

LAMATA originally concentrated on developing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, to run from Mile 12 to Lagos Island. In 2008, it made progress with the rail project, focusing initially on the Blue and the Red lines. The entire rail project is designed to run through various areas of Lagos, under a seven-line network codenamed: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Purple, Brown and Orange lines.The Blue Line, which the state has exerted more energy on, is expected to be 27km long, connecting Okokomaiko to Marina. In April 2008, the state government approved 70b for the construction of the Okokomaiko-Iddo-Marina Line, with an estimated completion date of 2011.However, the project has suffered many delays, with the state government and the supervising agency- LAMATA, sometimes giving contradictory reasons for the delay in meeting the numerous deadlines.

Why The June 2013 Deadline Was Not Met
THE Special Adviser to the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, (Babatunde Fashola) on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, in explaining the failed deadlines alleged that the delay could be due to the non-approval of the World Bank loan by the Federal Government. But when informed that the contractor has remained on site since the governor made the pronouncement, he suggested that the reporter should get in touch with LAMATA for better insights on the failure of the June completion date for that phase.
“Let me draw your attention to the fact that when the governor said that, he also mentioned that all these will be subject to availability of funds. So, if the World Bank loan is still being held up by the Federal Government and there are still issues, definitely it would be impossible to do magic.” While the then Managing Director of LAMATA, Dr. Dayo Mobereola, did not pick several calls made to his telephone lines, and did not return the calls either, the former External Relations Manager of the authority, Mrs. Angela Olanrewaju, explained that the Blue Line Rail project was on course, noting that the entire project was divided into phases. 
“The first phase is from National Theatre to Mile Two. There are four stations – National Theatre, Iganmu, Alaba and Mile Two. Under this phase, the four stations have been substantially completed. The elevated section has been completed and the contractor is currently laying the rail tracks,” she said.Olanrewaju added that LAMATA is constantly monitoring the progress of the project and is satisfied with the extent of work done so far. 
“On the completion date, the construction of the first phase of the project was projected to be completed at the end of June this year (June 2013). However, we experienced some minor hitches due to delays experienced at the ports with respect to importation of materials and equipment, the weather has also impeded the pace of work. As with huge projects like this, a lot of unforeseen logistic challenges always arisen, but we are working closely with the contractor to ensure a timely completion of the project. We are committed to completing this project at the earliest possible time.
“The project on completion will offer life-impacting benefits to commuters as quality of life will improve generally; commuters will now enjoy faster travel time as this is projected to drop by over 400 per cent (from 2-5hrs travel time to 37mins); passenger waiting time for public transport will also reduce significantly. The traffic gridlock currently being experienced on the Okokomaiko to Marina axis will reduce considerably, while economic activities along Lagos –Badagry axis will be greatly enhanced. Environmental pollution will also reduce by about 12 per cent.” None of the promises was fulfilled

Extension Of First Phase Made Meeting 2015 Deadline Impossible
A staff of LAMATA, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “Government felt that if the project is from Mile 2 to the National Theatre, it would make no sense. So, it extended the first phase to Marina, and also awarded the National Theatre-Marina route, which is being implemented along with the first phase. Therefore, the project is now from Mile 2 to Marina. And the governor explained that for it to be really impactful, it should be extended to Marina because if a resident coming from Festac boards a train from Mile Two and alights at the National Theatre, he would still likely get stuck in traffic again as he attempts to link Marina from the National Theatre. When the governor made the initial promise, it was on the project between Mile 2 and the National Theatre. Now, that section is about 98 per cent ready. 
“But the section taking it to Marina would likely take sometime. We should not be talking about when the project will be completed, what should be the most important thing is if work is going on or not. Do not forget that government is funding this project by itself alongside other projects that it is executing in the state. If the project has stopped totally, then there could be issues and concerns. Yes, there is a projection, but the thing with us is that if a given date were not met, it would be as if government is not doing anything. But the fact is, the project is still going on, and there is a particular date in mind for the completion.”

Ambode In Predecessor’s Footsteps
GOVERNOR Akinwunmi Ambode also seems to follow the footstep of his predecessor as far not meeting completion deadlines is concerned. On July 16, 2015, about two months after he came into office, Ambode assured that he would deliver the project to Lagos residents in 12 months. That deadline fell on July 2016. Ironically, five months after he promised to deliver the project in 12 months, he shifted the goalpost and said it would be completed in December 2016. But in November 2016, the governor made another volte-face saying it would now be completed before the end of 2019.

Initially the project was to be funded with assistance from the World Bank, by the Lagos State government, but it recently made a U-turn and called on private investors to come on board the execution of Phase 2 of the Blue Line project, that is, the Mile 2-Okokomaiko Section.The Blue Line, which starts at Marina Station, runs on an elevated platform and moves along the National Theatre Station, making a descent at Iganmu Alaba, Mile 2, Festac, Alakija, Trade Fair stations, Volkswagen Station, LASU and finally reaches the Okokomaiko Station, where it ends.

It was initially meant to have 10 stations, while sharing three others with the Red Line. The stations are to have island-style platforms and commuter payment systems. Public address and electronic information screens are also to be installed in each station. The Ebute Ero Station is expected to have an escalator.A number of rail crossings with elevated road structures will be built along the lines, and pedestrian bridges will be constructed over the Nigerian Railway Corridor. Cable ducts and walkways, in addition to drainage system with two walls will equally be built along different sections of the lines.

Between Marina and Iddo stations, a combined five-kilometre viaduct rail over road and cable stay-bridge will be built, linking the Red and Blue lines. Other infrastructure to be built as part of the project include signalling, control and communications (SC&C) systems; supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems; depot and workshop facilities; an operations control centre and a training facility for drivers.While the state government has not commenced earthwork on the Red Line, work done on the Blue Line, which is the Lagos-Badagry rail project, is said to have gone beyond 60 per cent, especially the Mile 2- Marina Section, and the project has been on for about 10 years, since the state government formalised a proposal for a metro rail line in 2008, with an initial 2011 completion target for the first phase.

As many who live and work on the Lagos-Badagry route daily yearn to see the project completed, four train stations have been completed and the train track laid on the Mile 2 to National Theatre route.From the National Theatre inward Lagos Island, the pillars to take the train track across the swampy portion of Ijora and Lagoon, as well as, the pillars to take the train track to the Island Terminal are being constructed.

First Attempt At Constructing Light Rail
THE ongoing effort is not the first time that the state is venturing into a rail system. There was an effort to have a metro line project earlier on, specifically in 1983. Flagged off on July 16, 1983, the project was expected to cost N689m, and the first phase was projected for completion in July 1986.But the project, which was to have 30 trains, each running 28.5 kilometers on raised concrete tracks from Marina to Agege, was terminated two years after it started and a year to the completion of the first phase of the project.

The 30 trains were projected to carry 88, 000 passengers to and fro per hour, which is 2, 288, 000 passengers in 16 hours. That was about half of the population of Lagos, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) calculations then. Thirty-two buildings were finally planned to be pulled down, away from the original calculation of 1, 373 buildings.

Also, just like the new metro line, its execution was in two phases: the first from the Marina to Yaba, which was slated for completion on July 1986, while the second, from Agege to Yaba through Oregun and Ikorodu Expressway, was slated for completion in March, 1987. The two sections were to have 19 stations spaced 1.5 kilometres from each other, with two platforms of 140 metres in length, and six metres wide.

After laying the foundation stone that fateful Saturday, then governor, Lateef Jakande said: “We are making history today. One hundred years from now, generations yet unborn would thank us for the wisdom in establishing this project. At that time, the metro line would have expanded from the north-south route of Lagos to other states. I dream of a comfortable future and I thank God for making me and this administration instruments for this future.”The Jakande administration was probably responding to a transportation study on Lagos commissioned by the Federal Government in 1974, which foresaw worse traffic jams in Lagos, compared to what was the case in the early 1970s, unless the problems were quickly tackled.

Jakande, during the ceremony to flag off the metro line also noted that: “In spite of the huge amounts so far expended by the Federal Government, traffic congestion still feature on Lagos roads and even on expressways. Consequently, there are those who believe that the traffic problems in Lagos are not amendable to solution.”The project did not elicit favourable response from all, as some criticised it, describing it as a waste of public funds. In defending the project, Jakande said the state would provide only N21.05m of the total sum of the project. The trains were to be made of aluminium to reduce power consumption and maintenance cost due to corrosion in humid climate. They were also to be powered from two major sources, and a traction supply, which will come through 10 rectifier substations linked to the defunct National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) low voltage network. The other was the 415/250 volts required to operate fixed auxiliary equipment.

As a back up to the power supply linked to the defunct NEPA, were generators that can produce 32 megawatts of power, with accommodation for two more four megawatt generators, and which could run the metro line non-stop for nine months without any major repairs.The Lagos Metro Line Limited (LML), a limited liability company inaugurated in 1979 and registered in 1980, was expected to break even and generate its own funds by its fourth year of operation, having a revenue of N62.5m per year at an operating cost of N12.5m, with the surplus used to service its short and long-term loans. And by its fifth year, the LML was expected to generate its own funds and service its capital loans. Interinfra, a French consortium of 19 firms was to handle the project.

The Lagos Metro Line was one of 30 of such projects that were being constructed in various cities in the world at that time. A similar project was being constructed in Cairo, Egypt, and the various firms, which made up Interinfra participated in the construction of metro lines in various parts of the world. When the Lagos Metro Line project was scrapped in 1985 by the military administration of Muhammadu Buhari, it recorded a loss of over $78m to Lagos’ taxpayers, information on Lagos Metro Line gleaned from Wikipedia revealed.However, with the new metro line project failing to meet the many deadlines set for the completion of the first phase, some stakeholders are afraid that the project might go the way of the first attempt.

Egypt’s Cairo Metro Line Up And Running
THE Cairo Metro, a similar project, which was to start operation after the first and second phases of Lagos Metro Line had taken off, not only completed its Line 1 in 1987, it followed it up with two other lines.The construction of Cairo Metro Line 1 started in 1982, after the French government agreed to give Egypt the necessary loan. The first section was opened on September 27, 1987 and the line was completed in 1989 connecting Helwan with El Marg, and consisting of 33 stations with a total length of 43 km, of which 4.7 km was underground. The line witnessed few developments since 1989 as New El Marg Station was added in 1999 to the northern end of the line, bringing its total length to 44.3 km. Helwan University Station was built between Wadi Houf and Ain Helwan stations.

Cairo’s metro network was greatly expanded in the mid-1990s with the building of Line 2, from Shoubra El Kheima to Cairo University, with an extension to Giza. The line includes the first tunnel under the Nile. The construction of the line was finished in October 2000 and was later extended to El Mounib.

The construction of Line 3 started in 2006, with the first section opening on February 21, 2012. It has 29 stations, out of which two will be on grade and the remaining 27 stations underground, with a bored tunnel. The total length of the line, expected to be fully operational in October 2019, will be approximately 30.6 km of which 28.1 km is an underground section and the rest of the line about 2.5 km shall be on grade and will be implemented in four phases.Work has commenced on the Line 4, expected to be fully operational in October 2020, though to be executed in four phases.

Addis Ababa Light Rail, Another Success Story
ADDIS Ababa Light Rail, a light rail transportation system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is another contemporary of the Lagos Metro Line that has become a success story. A 17-kilometre (11 mi) line running from the city centre to industrial areas in the south of the city opened on 20 September 2015, after inauguration by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, service began on November 9, 2015 for the second line (west-east). The total length of both lines is 31.6 kilometres (19.6 mi), with 39 stations. Trains are expected to be able to reach maximum speeds of 70 km/h (43 mph).

The railway was contracted by the China Railway Group Limited, and the Ethiopian Railways Corporation began construction of the double track electrified light rail transit project in December 2011, after securing funds from the Export-Import Bank of China. Trial operations got underway on February 1, 2015 and were followed with several months of testing, and the Shenzhen Metro Group operates it.This light-rail system was the first to be built in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of the two rail lines, the east-west line extends 17.4 kilometres (10.8 mi), stretching from Ayat Village to Torhailoch, and passing through Megenagna, Meskel Square, Legehar and Mexico Square.The north-south line, which is 16.9 kilometres (10.5 mi) in length, passes through Menelik II Square, Merkato, Lideta, Legehar, Meskel Square, Gotera and Kaliti.

However, two lines have a common track of about 2.7 km. The common track is the elevated section, which runs east to west across the southern edge of the CBD from Meskel Square to Mexico Square, and onwards to Lideta. Trains on the North South Line are blue and white, whilst on the East West Line they are green and white.A resident of Okoko area, Lagos, Soji Adebayo stated that the construction of the road and rail line has taken too long to be completed. Even though he noted that when completed it would help many who live around Okoko and beyond to easily navigate the city, especially connecting the Island and Ikeja, he, however, wondered why the project is taking over a decade to complete.

Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, who also commented on the failure to meet the different deadlines, recalled that the first date for completion had earlier been set for 2011, but was postponed due to project finance shortfalls.“By April 2018, we were told that the first track was 95 per cent completed, but I am not aware that a firm date has been set for its completion.”

Mailafia maintained that the failure to meet the project deadlines exert an enormous cost not only on the Lagos State government, the borrowers, but also on the users and society at large, adding that the capital needed to execute big infrastructure projects of this kind do not come cheap.He added that in view of this, when there are delays in completion, it could lead to a situation where repayment period occurs before the project would have begun to draw income.“This might lead to expensive readjustment of repayment terms. It is also costly to the borrowers – in this case the Lagos State government and the principals of the project.

“Secondly, it is also costly for commuters and the society at large. The benefit that would have accrued to commuters is lost for all these years, including benefits in terms of economic returns and jobs for those who would have been recruited to work on the railways once they became operational.”Asked to do a comparative cost analysis of rail projects executed in parts of the continent, he declined, saying he does not have a complete picture of the total costs of the Lagos rail project. “But I do know, for example, that the 27 km Blue Line is estimated to cost $1.2b. When you divide that amount over 27 km, what you get is an average cost per km of $44, 444.”

The former deputy governor of CBN, however, explained that there couldn’t be a fair and accurate comparison in terms of average of global costs without knowing the technical details of the Lagos rail project.“Some global projects are higher than that figure while several others are lower. For example, the Hannover U-Bahn rail project in German is a low $16.2m, while that of the Madrid Rail Extension Project in Spain was estimated to cost $26m per km. Both of those European projects are among the lowest I have seen. Perhaps, we should under-study those two to find what miracles they performed to keep the costs as low as they did.

“The Copenhagen Metro project in Denmark was estimated to cost an average of $69.8m per km. But that of the Paris Meteor Phase was as high as $220m per km, while the London Jubilee Line Extension was a whopping $329.9m per km.“I guess it all depends on the situation of each project. That of London required expensive and technically difficult digging of underground tunnels. In big cities such as Paris, London, Toulouse, you may have to construct by demolishing expensive real estate. All these add costs.

“All considered, I would presume that the cost of the Lagos project is not that prohibitive or out of the ordinary. What matters is that we do not have undue delays that add to the costs of repaying the loans.Several attempts to get the Lagos State government to give an update on the project through LAMATA were not successful. Getting the managing director of LAMATA to respond to questions bordering on the implications of shifts in the deadlines, liabilities resulting from the delay, and when the project would be ready proved abortive.The external communications manager of the outfit also failed to respond two weeks after he was furnished with questions pertaining to the project. He claimed to be indisposed hence unable to follow up. He promised to available the needed information. He never did as at press time.