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30 years after… Lagos Metroline still work in progress

By Gbenga Salau
24 July 2016   |   4:58 am
If the Lagos Metroline proposed by Alhaji Lateef Jakande had seen the light of day, this month would have been the 30th anniversary of the completion of the first phase of the project and the 33rd anniversary ...
A section of the ongoing Lagos Metroline.

A section of the ongoing Lagos Metroline.

Cairo Metro Started Same Period, Now On Fourth Line (Phase)

If the Lagos Metroline proposed by Alhaji Lateef Jakande had seen the light of day, this month would have been the 30th anniversary of the completion of the first phase of the project and the 33rd anniversary of the foundation stone laying ceremony. The flag off of the N689 million metroline project, aimed at easing the traffic jam in Lagos, was done on July 16, 1983 at about 1:18 pm and was projected for completion, especially the first phase 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 an hour, which is 2288,000 passengers in 16 hours and about half of the population of Lagos, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) calculations then. 32 buildings were finally planned to be pulled down, away from the original calculation of 1,373 buildings.

Also, just like the new metroline, its execution was for two phases: the first from the Marina to Yaba, which was slated for completion in July 1986, while the second, from Agege to Yaba through Oregun and Ikorodu Expressway, was slated for completion in March, 1987. The two sections of the metroline 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, Jakande said: “We are making history today. One hundred years from now, generations yet unborn will thank us for the wisdom in establishing this project. At that time, the metroline 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 had foreseen worse traffic jams in Lagos compared with what was the case in the early 70s, unless the problems were quickly tackled.

Jakande then, during the ceremony to flag off the metroline also noted that: ”In spite of the huge amounts so far expended by the Federal Government, traffic congestion still features 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 President (Shagari) said that government had continued to spend money on the project because it believed the problems soluble. He commended the Lagos State Government for coming in a big way to complement its efforts, and promised his co-operation towards the achievement of the project, which he said promises to be a great achievement.”

The project did not enjoy 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 N21.05 million of the total sum of the project. The trains to be used were to be made of aluminium to reduce power consumption and maintenance cost due to corrosion in humid climate.

The trains were to be powered from two major sources and a traction supply, which will come through 10 rectifier substations linked to NEPA low voltage network. The other is the 415/250 volts required to operate fixed auxiliary equipment.

As a back up to the power supply linked to the electricity company then, NEPA, were generators that can produce 32 megawatts of power, with accommodation for two more four megawatt generators, and they could run the metroline for nine months non-stop with any major repairs.

The Lagos Metroline 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 N62.5 million per year at an operating cost of N12.5 million, with the surplus used to service its short and long term loans. And by its fifth year, the LML will generate its own funds and service its capital loans.

Interinfra, a French consortium of 19 firms was handling the project. The Lagos Metroline was one of 30 of such being constructed in various cities in the world at that time, with a similar one being constructed in Cairo, Egypt, and the various firms, which make up Interinfra have participated in the construction of Metrolines in various parts of the world. When the project was scrapped in 1985 by the military administration of Muhammadu Buhari, it was at a loss of over $78 million to Lagos taxpayers, an information on Lagos Metroline gleaned from Wikipedia revealed.

Meanwhile, the Cairo Metro, which was to start operation after the first and second phase of Lagos’ metroline line had taken off, not only completed its Line 1 in 1987, but went on to follow it up with two other lines.

The construction of Cairo Metro Line 1 started in 1982, after the French Government agreed on giving Egypt the necessary loan. The first section was opened on 27 September 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, 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.

Works have commenced on the Line 4, expected to be fully operational in October 2020, though to be executed in four phases. So much about the Cairo Metro and the meticulous adherence by its proponents to the plan.

Back to Lagos Metro, in early 2000, the then Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, renewed the need for the state to revive the metroline, which was formally announced in December 2003.

The first two lines of the urban rail project were estimated to cost $1.4bn. The Blue line will be 27km long, connecting Okokomaiko to Marina.

The Blue line will be funded entirely by the Lagos State Government (LSG). In May 2012, the Lagos government commenced negotiations with potential investors for the operation and maintenance of the line.

The concession contract will be for the operation and maintenance of the lines for 25 years. The scope of work for the concessionaire will also include design and construction of the infrastructure associated with operation and maintenance of the lines.

CPCS Transcom is the transaction adviser for the Blue line. The Blue line starts at Marina station and runs along Ebute Ero and Iddo station, same as the Red line. From Iddo, the Blue line running on an elevated platform moves along the National Theatre station and makes a descent at Iganmu to join the expanded Lagos-Badagry Expressway, an expansion conceived to ease link between Nigeria and neighbouring West African states, Alaba, Mile 2, Festac, Alakija, Trade Fair station, Volkswagen station, LASU and finally reaches the Okokomaiko station, where it ends. One of the two bridges being built for the Blue line is at Mile 2.

The Blue line is expected to have 10 stations, then sharing three others with the Red line. The stations will have island-style platforms and commuter payment systems. Public address and electronic information screens will be installed in each station. The Ebute Ero station will also have an escalator.

A number of rail crossings with elevated road structures will be built along the lines. Pedestrian bridges will be constructed over the Nigerian Railway Corridor. Cable ducts and walkways, in addition to drainage system with two walls will be built along different sections of the lines.

While the Cairo Metro Projects would complete its Line 4 in 2019 to become operational in 2020, it is not clear when the Lagos Metroline would come on-stream, especially as previous completion targets had failed. The immediate past governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola first said that June 2013 would be completion date for the first phase of the project, with some excuses were offered some of which were not true. Thereafter, Fashola said it would be completed before he letf office, but it was not delivered. Later, it was said that there was no specific date for the completion of the first phase, especially because of the extension. But when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode came, he promised that by December this year, the first phase would be commissioned. No doubt, Lagos residents are anxiously waiting for the December date hoping it would be met.

Dr Olayinka Oluyemi Agunloye of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos, with specialisation in transportation planning, speaking on the losses suffered as a result of the discontinuation of the project, stated that the period in history would have been a time for true emergence of intermodal transportation in Lagos State.

“This is because at that period, we had the water mode, air mode, railway, which was even better than now, so, that metroline would have complemented what we had on ground. And it would have helped in the proper linkage of the other modes of transportation.

“And that has been the idea of most of the transport plans. Even if you study the strategic master plan that was launched last year, you will discover that that was taken into cognizance, because that has always been the feeling. How to connect the different mode of transports, so that a particular one is not stretched.”

He noted that if the project had been completed at that time, the travel behaviour of Lagos residents would have changed, because they would have been used to intermodal system of transportation, journeying within the city. “And the psychology behind our travel would have been a better thing, if that had taken place.”

Also looking at the economic impact the project would have had, Agunloye said that economically, the city would have been better than it is now, as it would have helped to boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state.

“Another thing is that, though it might not be too scientific, but socially we would have been better. Using just the road method, it becomes a triangular thing. In terms of job opportunities, it would have created more jobs for people. Although the people as at then cannot be compared with the population of now, but it would have taken care of the employment of some persons.”

The budget for the initial project was N689m while the new metroline under construction is estimated to cost $1.4b. What the state lost, besides the initial $78 million said to have been borne by taxpayers, a return to the project about two decades after, is incalculable

Agunloye said that the inflation rate of now cannot be compared to the inflation rate of then, though if it had been done then, the efforts now would be about maintenance or comprehensive redevelopment, which would not cost up to what is at present being budgeted.

“If we compare the cost then and now, you will find out that if it was done that time, it would not have been as expensive. Look at the old Nigerian Railway, as old as it is, you discover that it is still working, but if we are to do a new one, it would be very expensive. In terms of cost, it would have been more economical for us to have done it then compared to doing it now.”

Providing more insight on how transportation modes are integrated in other climes, Agunloye explained that, presently, in Hong Kong, there transportation system accommodates three different modes on a particular route. As a train is moving, on the route underneath is another mode of transportation, just like the Maryland tunnel in Nigeria.

He argued that the challenge with Lagos is that its transportation modes are not properly linked.

An economist, John Babalola said that there is both economic and social impact caused by the stoppage of the project. He however said that it is when a survey is conducted to measure the impact that it could be given a computation that is then monetised.

“You cannot make any categorical statement if there is no survey, whose outcome can be quantified in monetary form.”

On his part, the CEO of Economic Associates, Ayo Teriba, said that naira was stronger than the dollar in 1983, when the project was awarded, as a naira was about one dollar, fifty cents.

“So, if the cost of the project was N689m then, using the rate of a dollar, fifty cents to a naira, it would be about $1b now. And if it is assumed that there is a yearly 2 per cent inflation rate, you have in excess of 50 per cent of the project sum and if you add 50 per cent of $1b, that means the N689 million cost of the project then is about $1.5b now.”

Teriba, however, sees no impact in the cancellation of the project, as it did not take off. In his words, “What would be the impact of a man or woman that was stillborn? The project was stillborn and do you know the impact of mortality rate in Nigeria. In economic and business, by-gone is by-gone. You can make a case for a new project.”