I am a train person. I love to travel by rail – surface trains, underground, metro – name it. When I travel out of Nigeria, my preferred means of transportation is the train. Long or even short distance. In fact, I love trains.
There were times we had dreams as kids to be train drivers and move hundreds of people at the same time. Childhood dreams of working or traveling by rail.
I have not been impressed by the old trains that convey passengers and goods from Iddo to Agege, through Mushin and Oshodi where you see people hanging on the top and sides of the trains, in spite of the dangers inherent in such antics, so I have not been attracted to the Nigerian rail service.
But when the Nigeria Railway Corporation introduced the Lagos – Abeokuta – Ibadan rail service and it looked clean, smooth and well-packaged, I promised myself that the train would be my next means of travel when I have to go to Abeokuta and Ibadan. However, I have not had cause to travel to both places since the service was introduced. And the main station is just down the road from me and I see movements in and out of the station whenever I am driving by. That has been it. I have never traveled by train in Nigeria in my almost 70 years on earth.
Two Wednesdays ago – 22nd February 2023 – I joined members of my professional institute, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, to honour an invitation from LAMATA – the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority – to take a ride on the Lagos Rail Mass Transit – Blue Line, from Marina to Mile 2, ahead of the commencement of full operations. It was an opportunity to experience Lagos’ new rail system before it fully kicks off and opens to the general public.
More than 20 of us NIPR Fellows, Members, Associates and staff, led by Chapter Chairman Comfort Obot Nwankwo joined other groups on the ‘to and fro’ ride which took off at about 10.40am from the Marina station.
It was an interesting experience. The train was full when we boarded so most of us on our team had to stand the whole journey. There were lots of young people in the train before us, but none of them gave up their seats for elders or senior citizens. There was no sign on the train though, for people to offer their seats but that was not how we were brought up. Even in Europe or North America, younger ones offer their seats. During the days of the defunct LMTS – the Lagos Municipal Transport Service – youths or younger adults giving up their seats for elders was a given. Not these days though, because I have used the BRT Bus Service a couple of times and it was the same experience. If anything, it is adults that offer their seats to those they see as their seniors, while the younger ones don’t seem to care. That’s an aside.
Our ride was a leisurely one, going and coming, and it took barely 45 minutes for the full journey and because the rail line is above ground, one can see from above all that is going on below – not that the sight is beautiful because of shanties, refuse dumps, traffic on the road below and tankers parked on top of Eko Bridge – but it was a change and a promise. Some part of the rail line is on the ground level.
The service did not stop at any of the stations between Marina and Mile 2 but the stations between are National Theatre, Iganmu and Alaba. The rail line is expected to extend further to Okokomaiko, with stations at Festac, Alakija, Trade Fair, Volkswagen and LASU.
The 13 km Lagos Blue Line Rail Phase 1 scheme Marina-Mile 2 infrastructure, is undergoing testing this first quarter of 2023. The Blue Line project is a 27-kilometre rail route designed to run from Okokomaiko eastwards to Mile 2 and then proceed to Marina via Ijora.
The first phase is expected to transport 250,000 passengers daily and, when completed, the entire 27 km will transport about 500,000 passengers daily. Each train comprises four coaches and each coach can take up to 180 passengers conveniently.
Riders make use of Cowry Card to access the system – the same as the State’s unified electronic payment system that is currently being used for Bus Rapid Transit and regulated ferry services.
With the completion of infrastructure works in the first phase of the Lagos Blue Rail Line, Lagosians living along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway and beyond will be able to enjoy smooth commuting and avoid the hectic traffic on that route which is a daily nightmare.
Full operations would not commence, however, until the project concludes the necessary test-running and proper security measures are put in place along the rail corridor. We also expected LAMATA to ensure smooth rides for passengers, even at the stations by providing necessary facilities to access the trains. For instance the Marina station is replete with several stairs that will make it difficult for elderly and disables persons to get up to the platform. Provision of lifts, escalators or elevators will definitely be a must if the facility is to be of use to these groups of persons.
Funding model for the Blued Line project is said to have been facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, who allowed the Lagos State government to access its differentiated cash reserves, which was disbursed through Access Bank, Sterling Bank and Fidelity Bank – that created innovative funding model for the Blue Line project.
The rail system is powered by electricity and the public has been warned repeatedly not trespass on the rails, either by crossing or vandalizing it. Such trespassers will be electrocuted. Pedestrian bridges have been provided to enable pedestrians cross the line.
Construction of the project was implemented by China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC.
3 Comments on “Lagos Blue Rail: My First Nigerian Train Ride”
Thank God it didn’t derail knowing our stories,bit if I may ask ,isn’t this project taking too long? Imagine the sufferings on that road by commuters,the health issues and loss of productivity given the long hours and time spent commuting to and from that section of town.I think the government and project handlers can do better.
Epa and first class enjoyment
Epa Ogie, this was a nice read. Thank you for taking me on this virtual ride on the Lagos Blue Rail. I congratulate the government of Lagos State and LAMATA on this big stride in infrastructural development in the transportation sector.
However, I’m surprised that even in 2023, little or no attention was paid to the issue of ease of access for the vulnerable groups of potential users of this service. I urge your – or shall I say ‘our’ Institute? – not to stop at drawing the attentiom of LAMATA to this oversight but to engage with them until they take remedial action.
I am certain they will welcome your partnership in this regard. After all, bringing PR into a matter means you are looking for critical input.