Lagosians await multi-billion naira light rail project amid concerns

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s promise that the multi-billion blue and red light intra-city rail system would be ready by the end of 2022 has brought the project to the fore, reports FUNMILAYO FABUNMI

The Lagos State Government’s light rail project has suffered several years of delay for various reasons. It seems like the people of Lagos have been waiting endlessly and stakeholders are raising questions about how long it will take the state government to complete the project.

Obviously, the state government made several promises on delivery times that did not materialize.

However, the Lagos light rail project did not see the light of day, several years after it was born amid high expectations.

As a result, Sanwo-Olu’s promise that the project would be delivered later this year was seen as a political statement. But senior Lagos State government officials insisted the governor meant what he said.

However, keen observers and stakeholders familiar with the scheme said it would take a miracle for the Governor to fulfill the promise he made to Lagosians and Nigerians under the overall scheme.

Officials close to the project said it was almost impossible for the government to deliver the project by the last quarter of this year.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, argued that many train stations were not ready while noting that several aspects of the infrastructure were not yet built.

One of the senior officials said, “I wonder how the state government will fulfill its promise to deliver the project by the last quarter of this year. This is a vast project with several components. It will be difficult to deliver it by the end of the year.

“For example, many railway stations still need to be completed. This is in addition to the fact that other major aspects of infrastructure projects are not yet ready. Several other things still need to be on the ground. I wonder how this will turn out.

Another senior official close to the Lagos State Metropolitan Agency said that if the project was to start by December, the state government should have started recruiting staff to lead the project by then. the.

He wondered how this would happen when nothing like this was happening.

“The rail system relies on a large number of personnel to operate efficiently. By now they should have started recruiting staff, but nothing like that is happening right now. For me, this December date comes across as a political statement,” he said.

However, some stakeholders defended the state government, insisting that the state government would keep its promise.

However, several speakers have spoken about the project.

Nigeria Union of Railway Workers General Secretary Segun Esan in a conversation with The PUNCH said the December date was achievable.

He said, “The Lagos State government, for what it is, is a very serious government; it is a people-centred government. The Lagos State Government regards the act of governance as a serious matter. So, knowing that the government has cultivated this attitude, I have no reason to doubt the promised delivery date of the light rail system.

“I had a number of examples to support my position on how the government has embarked on its efforts to put in place an efficient rail transport system which will serve as a kind of infrastructural backup to the economy. of transport in Lagos State, which happens to be very cosmopolitan. So I have no doubts in my mind. My personal experience with the Lagos State government proves that it is a government that tells it like it is and does it like it says it.

He added, “So on the delivery date promised by the state, I have no doubts in my mind except for natural reasons like rainfall or anything that can be attributed to weather conditions that usually stop the engineering works. Other than that, I really don’t see the Lagos State government going back on its promise to deliver a comprehensive rail transport system in the last quarter of this year.

“With this in mind, I think we should also unite in good solidarity and support the government in every way possible to deliver on its promise.”

A former railway analyst and president of Campaign for Democracy, Adebayo Obatungashe, also believes that the project’s December date is achievable. He said, however, that ongoing political activities could affect the delivery date.

He said: “There is nothing that is not achievable, it depends on the level of work that has been done. Also, when you look at the political climate, you will notice that elected leaders or representatives only work three years and use the last year to campaign before the next election cycle.

“The campaign season is already here. As a result, the possibility of completing the project is low. However, if the funds are released to the contractor in charge of the project, the work will continue.

“Since both the contractor and the state government know the value of the work and what it takes to complete it, I think it is up to both parties to know the possibility of completing the project. I cannot say very categorically whether the project will be finished or not.

Contacted to respond, LAMATA spokesperson Mr. Kolawole Ojelabi said, “The Governor has already given his word, and when you look at the pace of construction, we will end up with this mandate. ”

The idea of ​​a Metro Line for Lagos State was conceived and initiated by the first Civil Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande (1979-1983). When Jakande launched the metro line in 1983, it was to be delivered in 1986, with all the paper work done while the contractor was ready to be mobilized to the site. However, the project had not yet started when the military coup led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari took place. The project could not continue.

However, the scheme was later abbreviated. The current light rail project has been color coded in different phases, including the Blue Line (Mile 2 to Marina); Red Line (Agbado to Marina); Purple Line (acquired from Ojo); Yellow Line (Otta to Iddo); Brown Line (Mile 12 to Marina); Orange Line (bought from Marina) and Green Line (Marina from Lekki). Construction of the Blue Line, which covers 27 kilometers, began under former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s administration and is managed by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation.

The contract includes the fundamental design and development of the railway infrastructure, while the construction is also done in phases. The first phase includes the National Theater section at Mile 2 and the second involves the Mile 2 phase at Okokomaiko.

The rail project, which was originally due to be completed in 2011, has experienced some delivery delays.

When taking office in 2015, former Lagos State Governor Akinmunmi Ambode promised that the project would be delivered in 2016, but this was never delivered.

In 2019, when Sanwo-Olu was handed over, he assured Lagosians that he would be ready on schedule.

Earlier this year, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to deliver the project by the last quarter of 2022.

He said: ‘Our promise on the blue line and the red line is still ongoing. We believe that before the end of this year, we will see the trains on the tracks. This is our commitment, and we will begin to monitor and control ourselves.

“This is a historic project that we are really proud of. Our entrepreneurs are very committed; and they have assured us that whatever it takes, they will complete all projects on time and within budget,” the governor said while inspecting the project in early January.

To show his commitment to the project, the governor visited earlier in the year the factory of Talgo Incorporated, a train manufacturing company in Milwaukee, the largest city in the state of Wisconsin in the United States. United, to attend a ceremony ‘marking the purchase of two Series 8 trains for the Red Line project.

According to Milwaukee Public Radio, the two trains were originally designed for a high-speed rail line linking Madison and Milwaukee in the United States, but the Lagos State government was able to defeat other competitors for trains.

The trains are expected to be part of “West Africa’s first operational metro system”.

Jose P. Rogers