By Jimmy Fatunbi
Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu has finally launched commercial operations of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit Blue Line System 40 years after the idea for Lagos metro line was conceived.
The Governor became the first passenger to ride on the train during its inaugural trip as operations began on Monday.
The governor boarded the train from the Marina terminal enroute Mile 2 and took a return trip from Mile 2 to Marina.
The Managing Director, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, Mrs Abimbola Akinajo, had announced on Thursday that the Lagos blue line rail would commence commercial operations on Monday, September 4.
Akinajo added that Sanwo-Olu would be the first passenger during the inaugural ride on the train.
The idea of a metro line for Lagos State dates back to 1983 during the administration of the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande.
Jakande, who was the first civilian governor of the state, conceived and initiated the vision of a light rail in the state in 1983 with a target delivery date of 1986.
As of the time of conception, all the paperwork had been done while the contractor was ready to be mobilised to the site.
The project had yet to begin, however, when the military coup led by the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari took place.
The project was discontinued at the time.
The rail network project was, however, inaugurated in 2003 by former governor Bola Tinubu, 20 years after it was initially conceived.
At its inuguration, the light rail project was colour-coded in different phases, comprising the Blue Line (Marina to Mile 2); Red Line (Agbado to Marina); Purple Line (Redeemed to Ojo); Yellow Line (Otta to Iddo); Brown Line (Mile 12 to Marina); Orange Line (Redeemed to Marina) and Green Line (Marina to Lekki).
The construction of the 27-kilometre Blue Line rail started during the administration of former governor Babatunde Fashola.
The contract included the design and development of the rail infrastructure, while the construction was to be done in phases.
The first phase was from the Marina to Mile 2 section of the project, while the second phase was to include Mile 2 to Okokomaiko.
Former governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who assumed office in 2015, promised that the project would be delivered in 2016, but failed in his promise.
On assumption of office in 2019, however, Sanwo-Olu assured Lagosians that the project would be delivered by his administration.
The hope of residents was, however, heightened, when the first phase of the Blue Line rail was inaugurated by former President Muhammadu Buhari in January 2023.
Immediately after the inauguration, LAMATA announced that the Blue Line rail would be ready for commercial operations in March 2023. This date was later shifted twice until the commencement of commercial operations on Monday, September 4.
Sanwo-Olu, who expressed his excitement at the commencement of operations of the blue line rail, stressed that the project was a promise kept.
“I am excited, everybody on this train is excited. And this is promise made, promise kept. We said we were going to start by the end of last quarter, but we also wanted it to coincide with our 100 days (in office). So, this is part of our 100 days celebration.
“Today is the 4th day of September 2023, and we are excited because now we can start commercial operation; we can start real passenger operation and you can see all of our citizens are onboard. With our cowry cards, we’ve been able to embark. We just left the National Arts Theatre station now, we’re going to the Iganmu station. From the Iganmu station, we will be going to the Alaba station, and we will end at the Mile 2 station.
“We will all disembark at the Mile 2 station because we need to change the platform on our return journey if we’re going back to the Marina station. And, as you can see, everything is synchronised; it’s been timed. The amount of seconds or minutes we are going to stay at the station is not more than 90 seconds, that’s a minute and a half, because it’s mass movement. It has to move thousands upon thousands of people on both journeys,” Sanwo-Olu said.
The governor, who spoke in the presence of his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, and about 800 passengers who joined him in the inaugural ride on Monday, also assured Lagosians that the Red Line rail would be completed by the end of the year.
Sanwo-Olu said the red line rail was about 95 to 96 completed and would be unveiled soon.
“The Red Line currently is about 95 to 96 per cent and if it doesn’t get to 100 per cent, we won’t commission it. But we are certain that before the end of the year, we will also commission the Red Line.
“By the end of this month or the first week in October, we will start commissioning the bridges – Ikeja Along Bridge, Yaba Bridge, Ebute-Metta Bridge, Mushin Bridge, Ayoola Coker and all the other bridges. We will start opening the bridges for vehicular movements, then we will start the commissioning of the various stations; from Oyingbo Station to Yaba to Mushin, Ikeja to Agege and to Iju.
“We will commission all the stations, and then we will have a final movement, which I hope Mr President will come to help us to do before the end of the year,” the governor said.