Lagos, Nigeria, will inaugurate the Blue Line rail system in 2016. Dr Dayo Mobereola, Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, explains the benefits the rail system will bring to a city that has been suffering from congested transport infrastructure.
Lagos is a rapidly growing megacity with more than 20 million residents. Lagos metropolis has the largest population in Nigeria with unprecedented growth of 6 per cent annually. Population projections estimate that in little time, Lagos will become the world’s third largest urban agglomeration. The city’s existing road infrastructure has reached breaking point; inundated with intolerable levels of articulated vehicles, poorly maintained cars, and private buses making for infrastructure that results in commuters spending up to 6 hours of their working day in gridlock.
This situation hampers economic development and negatively impacts on the quality of life residents. While urbanization require adequate infrastructure, it is physically and economically unrealistic to significantly reduce congestion by building roads in densely populated cities. Broader structural approaches like de-concentration are therefore required, however, such de-concentration is difficult to achieve by applying only general planning strategies. To address some of these problems the Lagos State Government (LASG) in 2009, via its transportation Agency the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), has developed a Strategic Transportation Master Plan (STMP) for the State; a number of Rail Mass Transit (RMT), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and ferry routes were proposed for implementation in phases.
The STMP vision is to develop a plan for Lagos metropolis focused on transportation and land use integration, identification of major transportation corridors, proposal for appropriate public transportation schemes and the development of an action plan and the implementation of its content. The Blue Line is one of the identified rail line corridors presented in the STMP. The line will provide passengers the ability to interchange between future RMT, BRT and ferry lines for better inter-modality.
There are approximately 10.5 million daily passenger movements in the Lagos Metropolitan Area, increasing at a rate of 6 per cent annually. Lagos existing metropolitan highway infrastructure is severely constrained and a single journey from home to the office by inhabitants can exceed 3 hours.
Past studies conducted on vehicle registration confirmed that an additional 200,000 vehicles are registered in Lagos State annually. Furthermore, there are 222 vehicles per km. of road in Lagos, which by far, outweighs the national average of only 11 vehicles per km. of road. These vehicles are estimated to contribute more than 70 per cent of the ambient air pollution in the city.
LRMT Blue Line Project
To address and eliminate the challenges, LAMATA has commenced the construction of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) Blue Line railway project; a 27km railway line with 11 stations, along the eastern- western corridor of the state from Okokomaiko in the west to Marina. This railway project is currently being constructed in the centre of Lagos Badagry Expressway – an international highway connecting the west coast of Africa. This 60km. expressway is currently being upgraded and expanded from a dual carriageway road to a ten lane expressway, thereby providing a 600km. stretch of upgraded road network. Due to budgetary constraints, the 27km. Blue line rail project is being developed in phases with operations rolled out in stages with the initial stage scheduled for December 2016. When the Blue Line becomes fully operational, it is estimated that over 400,000 passengers would be conveyed daily.
The project is being developed adopting a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach whereby the state government is providing the infrastructure and the rolling stock while the private sector would operate and maintain the system
Social, economic and environmental benefits of the Blue Line system
As in many transportation projects there are numerous benefits that would be provided by the Blue Line. These include but are not limited to social, economic and environmental benefits.
Once the Blue Line project becomes operational, travel time by commuters would be reduced drastically as the system would provide a fast, reliable and efficient mode of mass transportation; there would also be an increased passenger traffic flow. This would be possible by complementing existing transit systems and modes, with the Blue Line marginally easing existing traffic congestion. The Blue Line rail project will lead to decreased fuel consumption because through increased passenger traffic flow, all vehicles would realize decreased fuel consumption. Another benefit of the Blue line is that the railways would provide a possible reduction, standardization and regulation in transportation fares for commuters.
- The Blue Line would offer increased social cohesion and community development. It is important to note that for a community to develop, people need to spend time with one another and not hours in traffic. By decreasing travel times and the stress associated with long commutes, it is logical to assume increased social cohesion amongst community members. This would also lead to improvement in the quality of life for citizens.
The city of Lagos will experience increased tax receipts via transit-oriented development when the Blue Line becomes operational along designated corridor. This implies that there would be new transit hubs which would become positive attractors for real estate, commercial and business developments. The Blue Line stations would stimulate business and real estate development within their surrounding environ, furthermore, should such stimulation occur, an increase in property tax receipts due to property value uplift would occur.
The Blue Line project would harmonize the Government’s existing transport plans within Lagos State. As specified in the STMP, there is a global plan to develop a multi-modal transit system in the state and the Blue Line will contribute significantly to this goal. Through the development of the Blue Line rail project, there has already been an increase in construction sector employment in the short term. Additional employment opportunities would be available during the Operations and Maintenance phase in the short and long term.
The presence of the Blue Line project along with the major trade between Nigeria and its neighboring West African countries would improve trade across Africa considering that the location of the Blue Line is an international gateway corridor that leads to Western African countries.
Considering the urban transportation system, the rapid population growth as well as high population densities in Lagos State, creates an attractive market for investors in transportation infrastructure.