Five months after commissioning by former President Muhammadu Buhari, the highly publicized Blue Line rail project of the Lagos State government is yet to properly take off. Despite organizing multiple test runs involving stakeholders from various sectors of the state, the rail line, which began construction in 2008, has yet to start operating.
The transporting public in Lagos is questioning the reasons behind the delay in commencing rail services. Is it due to unknown technical or economic issues?
Since its launch by former President Buhari on January 23, 2023, the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA), the body responsible for the project’s daily supervision, has not progressed beyond the test runs mentioned earlier. The project is being constructed by the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company (CECC).
The first group to experience the novel train project was a set of journalists, including the former commissioner for transportation, Dr. Sodeinde. Another group consisting of members of the Lagos business community and stakeholders also had the opportunity to test the ride.
During the ride, an official from LAMATA assured that once the testing ride was completed and the fare from CMS to Mile 2 was determined, the project would commence operation. The official also provided information about the distance, travel time, and daily capacity of the train. However, six months later, the rail line has still not started operating. Instead, a viral video surfaced showing a faulty coach/train being pushed by officials from the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) on the rail track. LAMATA promptly denied the incident, stating that the video was recorded during the train’s installation on the rail track. The involvement of traffic officers instead of engineers in this situation surprised Lagos residents.
Even the Red Line rail, which Governor Sanwo-Olu promised would be ready before May 29, has not started operating yet. However, construction is on-going at its designated stations in Yaba, Ikeja, Agege, Iju, Agbado, and other locations.
According to a transportation expert interviewed by the writer, the delay is purely political. The January launch was meant for Sanwo-Olu and Tinubu to gain political advantage, and this objective has been achieved. The expert concluded that it’s either the project is not yet ready or there are logistic issues causing the delay, or the government intends to relaunch it again.
Attempts to seek clarification from Mr. Kolawole Ojelabi, a retired LAMATA staff who currently serves as a media consultant, have been unsuccessful. He has not responded to enquiries regarding the non-operation of the Blue Line, despite confirming receipt of the message three weeks ago.
The rail project was initiated during the tenure of former governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, but was halted by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Although Ambode was servicing the $150 million loan obtained by his predecessor, he inexplicably abandoned the project. A similar rail project in Rivers State, the Monorail, started by Rotimi Amaechi during his time as governor, was also abandoned before he left office.
There are concerns that Lagos State may be facing undisclosed technical difficulties that are hindering the start of operations, which are not known to the public. Meanwhile, the government continues the construction of the 32-kilometer Red Line project from Oyingbo to Agbado in Ogun State.