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The many challenges of Lagos lite rail project

Posted: Apr 6, 2015 at 1:08 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ekene Okoro Snr. Correspondent, Lagos

Immanuel James Ibe-Anyanwu, 35, a Lagos resident who plies the Lagos-Badagry Expressway on a daily basis is one of many residents in the state who believes the current administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola has achieved much in the past eight years.

The ongoing lite rail project at Mile 2, Lagos.

The ongoing lite rail project at Mile 2, Lagos.

But one project he has great pessimism about is the Lagos Lite Rail Project, a multi-million Dollar intra-city rail initiative, started by the Fashola administration in 2007, which is still far from completion.

He however says the project though commendable, may not be realised in the next 10 years, going by the pace of work.

Hear him, “They’re still building structures at the Orile-Mile 2 axis. We are talking of Badagry. I don’t know the kilometre distance from say Alakija, where the project has now reached, to Badagry, but I’ve plied that road. It’s a thorough piece of driving work.

“Going by the current pace of work, it will take about 10 more years to complete it. We’ve already spent about 6 years, if not more, doing a small stretch fit only for morning jogging. The rail has not even been laid. I understand that it’s not an easy project, given the necessity of demolition and compensation, but the pace of work appears like the idea is to provide longstanding contractual employment”.

Birth of lite rail

The lite rail project, arguably one of the biggest projects ever embarked upon by any state government in Nigeria, is an attempt by the Lagos State Government to revive rail transportation in the evergrowing municipal city.

With a growing population of about 21 million, which the United Nations say could rise to 40 million by 2020, the burden of moving people, goods and services by road has become a herculean task, prompting government to look towards revamping the rail and water ways transportation models.

What could have been a thriving metro line system in the state was first conceived by the Alhaji Lateef Jakande-led administration during the Second Nigerian Republic in 1983. But before the project could see the light of day, the military regime under General Muhammadu Buhari cancelled the contract put at a cost of about $78 million.

The administration of former governor, Bola Tinubu, however took a bold step to revive the project, although it did not take flight until 2008, when incumbent governor, Babatunde Fashola hit the ground running.

With an initial delivery date of 2011, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), under whose purview the project is being undertaken, divided it into two segments: Blue Line and the Red Line.

The 27.5km Blue Line being constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) will run from Marina to Okokomaiko, with 13 stations.

A visit by Daily Independent to the project site showed that four of the stations- Mile 2, Alaba, Orile and Costain, have been completed while a fifth one to Marina is currently ongoing, spanning about 13kilometres.

Consequently, the first phase of the Blue Line has been completed from Mile 2 to National Theatre, while work is ongoing on the second phase from National Theatre to Marina across the Lagoon, which the contractors say is the most difficult phase of the project.

 Road works

The Lagos State Ministry of Works is saddled with the responsibility of reconstructing the roads leading through the routes of the rail. Presently the road infrastructure is almost nearing completion.

The initial challenge encountered by the ministry was getting the Right-of-Way. Several houses had to give way for the road expansion from four to 10-lane road.

The ongoing 10-lane expansion of the expressway road project with a flexible rail built into it at inception was divided into three lots. Lot 1 is from Eric Moore to Mile 2, which is about 7.5 kilometres, while Lot 2 is from Mile 2 to Agbara, a distance of about 28 kilometres and Lot 3 from Agbara to Badagry, all 10 lanes.

Presently, about 90 per cent of the work has been completed on the road from the Orile axis to Mile 2, while the contractor is in a race against time to finish the network of roads from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko.

The road infrastructure however did not come easy. The state government had to solve the challenge of settling owners of structures, including houses that were marked for demolition. The issue of compensation also had to be sorted out before work could go on.

After the initial delay, the state government disbursed N1.1 billion compensation earmarked to affected property owners, whose properties gave way for the project. The construction of lot 1 was awarded to Julius Berger.

Apparently, poised to realise the project in good time, fresh building blocks were recently laid for redevelopment of the second phase of the expressway. This time, it was the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC) that won the contract estimated to cost N220 billion.