Residents Await Take-Off Of Blue Rail Line Service As Panacea To Lagos-Badagry Expressway Traffic Gridlocks 

Residents bestriding the 61 kilometers Lagos to Badagry expressway have declared that the completion of the blue rail line from Marina to Okokomaiko will be the major solution to the seemingly intractable traffic gridlocks on the highway, while also expressing their eagerness to see the commencement of its operations.

They expressed that the rail line promises a new lease of life and improved standard of living for residents living along the rail line, who have suffered many years of the harrowing experience of traffic gridlocks with many tales of woe to point to, declaring however that the rail service will usher growth of businesses and sundry economic activities, and increased revenue for the government.

After a test ride organized by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, operators of the rail line last week Monday, Daily Independent conducted interviews with residents and business owners along the rail routes to get their feelings and expectations.

At the CMS area, I met a couple of residents living along the rail routes but working in the Marina area, Adeolu Jokotola, an Accountant who works in an accounting firm, spoke elatedly about how he cannot wait to see the rail go into operations as a resident of Eric Moore area.

He said: “My train station is the one at the National Theatre, after disembarking, I could choose to trek home or pick a Tricycle for a few minutes and I will be home. It is just that we are anxiously waiting for their services to commence. “

Justus a resident of Iganmu, expressed that though the fares to be charged are not known at the moment, “Regardless of the charges, it is not going to be anything compared to the harrowing traffic bedlam often experienced from the Lagos end here to my place in Iganmu and those expressed by my colleagues living beyond Iganmu, especially during closing hours in the evenings.”

Mrs. Roseline Oriakwu, who sells bottled groundnut and Banana on Campbell street, Marina but lives in the Agboju area, expressed excitement about the soon-to-be-commenced rail services, stating: “I pray the rail services will start as soon as possible, this will reduce our suffering of sleeping in some of the abandoned offices here on the Island.

“We pay as much as N5,000 per month to get a sleeping space in some of these buildings, pointing to some of the skyscrapers, we stay to only go home only at the weekends sometimes.

“If the rail becomes fully operational, one can go home and back daily knowing there would not be delays on the roads.”

For Engineer Ignatius Raphael, a Marine Engineer who works with a shipping company in Apapa, commended the Lagos state government for its giant stride in improving the mobility question of its residents; he however expressed fears about the sustainability of the project in the long run.

Engineer Ignatius said: “The state’s maintenance culture has to be improved upon if the rail projects are to serve Lagosians for a long time to come. Many should be wondering how the state government intends to maintain the two rail projects, judging from the antecedents of the government in the area of maintenance. Its maintenance culture must be called to question.

“The Lagos State government has a very poor history of maintenance. You can take a look at the state of all the 500 BRT buses procured about a year or two ago. Many are in a deplorable state.

“The cooling systems of the BRT buses are already damaged. To enter some of the buses, passengers have to tap in from another bus because their payment system is faulty. At the Abule-Egba station of the BRT, you will see many of those buses parked in dysfunctional states,” he added.

Taking a test ride on Monday 20, February on the Lagos Blue Rail Line from the Iconic Marina Station to Mile 2 station, leaves me with an impression of a government working assiduously to firm up mobility for its teeming and ever-growing citizenry.

The test rides which started about a week earlier were put in place to harvest feelers from the general public, enabling LAMATA to effect improvements where necessary for optimum public service when fully operational.

The Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, the operators of the Lagos Mass Rail Transport LMRT, has begun a series of public test rides on the completed 13 Kilometres Marina to Mile-Two light blue rail line, geared towards getting public perception ahead of the commencement of full operations of the train services in the first week of April this year.

Kolawole Ojelabi, Corporate Communications Consultant for LAMATA, explained that the rides commenced about a week earlier to carry what in engineering parlance is known as testing, “We are test running the rail line at an average three times a week, to ensure every infrastructure that has being put in place are okay before the commencement of the commercial rail services and these tests will continue till the end of March.”

Answering a question on why the ride from Marina to Mile Two took about 32 minutes, with the train going very slow from the Marina station to the National theatre station and would that be the standard speed?

Ojelabi answered, “The train is going through the test phase. It has a rated speed of 100km/h. Speed during the test phase is between 40 and 50 kph. Each car can take up to 250 passengers and there are four cars in a train set.

He also gave some of the safety precautions accompanying the Rail Transport system including; The entire corridor having CCTV coverage, with each of the stations having water hydrant, sprinklers, and fire extinguishers, and the trains having fire extinguishers in case of fire, including trained train marshals who will deal with any unusual situations, while the tracks are fitted with Broken Rail Detection System for the safety of the rail system and passengers.

Engineer Olasunkanmi Ogunsaga the Director of Rail Transport, LAMATA, gave further clarifications, stressing that the rail project from the beginning has the right of way from Marina to Okokomaiko, spanning 27 kilometers, and it is phased into two, the first phase runs from Marina to Mile 2, having Rail stations also at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Alana and Mile 2.

He said: “The test running exercise is an ongoing one till March end, before the commencement of passenger Services in the first week of April. We are inviting a cross-section of the general public and stakeholders, including officials from State Ministries, Government Agencies, Students, Private Sector players, members of the armed forces, clerics, Transport Operators, and the general public at large.

Engineer Ogunsaga further said, to further expand the scope of invitees, it is being opened online for anyone to apply for the ride and their applications will be looked Into and a date will be given to join the ride, stressing that the whole essence is to get feedback from them that will be incorporated into the plans, because the rail Transport is for the public, requiring their perspectives.

Speaking further he said: “Whatever observation or opinion expressed by any member of the public will be treated specially with feedback sent back to them, for instance, one of the passengers suggested that there should be an elevator at Marina station, which we responded is still under construction, while another pointed to the absence of signage along the rail route and was told it is in the pipeline.”

Some of the riders expressed satisfaction over the state of the coaches, fearing however that the Nigerian poor maintenance culture will set in leading to dilapidation, while some wondered if the 32 minutes taken on the 13 Kilometres journey is not too long, observing that’s slow, and others wanted to know the safety precautions put in place for passengers.

Samuel Agbo a Meat seller in the Second area of Mile Two, but leaves around Agbara Area, said: “We commuters using the Badagry-Mile 2 expressway to reach our destinations in the Lagos metropolis are also sometimes opting for water transportation, due to the traffic logjam that has become a nightmare on the road, but the commencement of the train operations, life will be so easy for us.”

Most affected are residents in the Okokomaiko, Agbara, and Badagry communities whose only access to their offices and business centers in areas like Apapa, Lagos Island, Victoria Island, and Lekki is the Badagry-Mile 2 expressway.

Residents of Festac working at Apapa also have cheery expressions about the unfolding rail transport system, Madam Elishama Edeh, who with her husband are Clearing agents at the Apapa Ports, said: “It is going to be roller coaster rides for us to our place of work at Apapa, riding straight from Mile 2 to Iganmu instead going through the hellish traffic between Mile 2 to Coconut, it is easier now Iganmu from Mile 2, and then take a bus straight to Apapa port with ease.

“On our return journey, we will take a bus from Apapa to Iganmu where we will join the Blue Line at Iganmu to Mile 2, beating the issue of traffic gridlocks and congestion on the roads usually caused by container carrying trucks doing business at the port is now history.” Elishama said.

Source: Independent News

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