LAGOS: After many years of talk and aborted proposals, plans for a diesel light rail network are finally taking shape in Nigeria's largest city.


Dr Dayo Mobereola
Managing Director & CEO, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority

Tender documents are due to be issued in the final quarter of this year for the design, supply, operation and maintenance of new rolling stock to work the first two lines of the proposed Lagos Rail Mass Transit network. Forming part of an integrated public transport system including light rail, quality bus and ferry services, the rail network is aimed at meeting the transport needs of the region's population, which is expected to soar to around 25 million by 2015.

Lagos is already the world's sixth largest city with a population of 17 million inhabitants, bigger than London or New York. It seems amazing that it still does not have an urban rail system, although this is not for want of trying. Feasibility studies have been carried out at intervals since 1978 but despite the preparation of a mass transit plan, the scheme has repeatedly failed to get off the ground due to lack of political will and funding.

A major industrial centre with a seaport and airport, Lagos is now a sprawling city which has expanded beyond its borders into the neighbouring Ogun state and is home to 45% of Nigeria's skilled manpower. Rapid urbanisation has given rise to many transport problems, which have been exacerbated by a reduction in infrastructure investment since the transfer of the federal capital to Abuja. This in turn led to declining productivity levels and increased social deprivation.

As a result, an ad-hoc transport system emerged to cope with the daily influx of 6 million commuters, based on private car, buses and around 75 000 private minibuses known as danfos and molues. With 5 000 km of road, but only 640 km of designated main roads, Lagos already has more than 220 vehicles per route-km, against a national average of 11, and 200 000 extra cars a year are being registered in Lagos state alone.

The current transport network is severely congested and already unable to cope with demand. If nothing is done, the situation is bound to worsen in the light of population growth which is currently running at 6% per annum.

Urban Transport Plan

World Bank approval for the ?Lagos Urban Transport Plan in April 2001 enabled preparatory work to start in 2002. Technical advice and ?financial assistance was obtained from the bank, in the form of an initial US$100m credit. The plan includes improvements to the road network, enhancement of bus services and water-borne transport and, most importantly, the development of a light rail network. An additional US$50m credit was approved in April 2007 to cover the rising cost of the projects.

As part of this initiative, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority was set up in December 2003 as a semi-autonomous agency, tasked with framing strategic transport plans and co-ordinating their implementation and operation in partnership with federal and other agencies. Its long-term goal is to develop and implement a transport system that meets world standards of technical excellence, harnesses the energy and efficiency of the private sector and has broad social and political acceptance.

Seven-line network

To meet the city's long-term requirements, Lamata has developed plans for a seven-line rail network totalling no less than 246 km, which is due to be completed by 2025. The first stage comprises two lines which are to be built by 2011.

Both routes will run from Marina in the city centre, with the 27 km Blue Line serving Okokomaiko in the west and the 37 km Red Line heading north to Agbado. The two lines will each have 13 stations. Initial ridership estimates put the number of passengers at 320 000 per day on the Blue Line and 1.3 million a day on the Red Line.

The LRMT project is intended to be implemented as a public-private partnership, with the infrastructure provided by the Lagos State Government under a design-and-build contract and the operations funded and managed by the private sector under a concession agreement.

An MoU between Lamata and Nig­erian Railways Corp was signed in 2006, granting access to a 30 m strip of NRC right-of-way required to build the light rail lines.

The light rail network will be 1 435 mm gauge, with track designed for simplicity, very limited maintenance and long-term sustainability. The Red Line would be double-track from Iddo as far as Ebute Metta, and single-track on the northern section. A four-track layout is envisaged at Iddo where the two lines will join.

A major cable-stayed bridge is needed to carry the line over the Lagos River from Iddo to reach the old city on Lagos Island, where the line will follow the quayside to Marina. Typical stations will have centre island platforms between the two tracks. Interchange stations will be established at key locations, with pedestrian bridges to provide safe access. Full signalling and automatic train protection are envisaged to reflect the anticipated high volume of train movements.

Tenders are to be issued inviting contractors to design and build the infrastructure, as well as bidders for the supply, operation and maintenance of the rolling stock. In the longer term an electrified network is envisaged but, in view of the unreliable electricity supply in Lagos, the preferred choice for the initial fleet is diesel-powered LRVs, operating in trains of four to 10 cars.

The successful tenderer will be required to enter into a concession contract with Lamata, under which it would operate the rolling stock and undertake all maintenance on the vehicles. Tenderers will be required to propose maintenance packages to ensure that the vehicles will be maintained in accordance with OEM recommendations over the concession period, preventing their value and performance being impaired by deferred maintenance. The successful bidder will also be required to train and certify designated Lamata personnel, or contractors, to conduct routine inspections.

Looking ahead

With the plans for the Red and Blue lines well underway, longer-term proposals are taking shape for a further five lines to complete the 246 km network by 2025.

The Green Line would run east from Marina to Lekki airport, paralleling the coast, while the Yellow Line would diverge from the Blue Line at National Theatre near Iddo and head northwest to Otta in Ogun state. A short branch off the Red Line at Oshodi would serve the international and domestic terminals at Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

The Brown and Orange lines would serve the northeast, sharing the Red Line tracks from Marina to Jibowu and then running to another junction at Ojota. The Brown Line would finish at Mile 12, whilst the Orange Line would continue north through Long Bridge to Redeem in the satellite township of Mowe/Ibafo.

Finally, the Purple Line would provide an orbital route running from Ojo in the west to Toll Gate in the northeast, where it would join the Orange Line tracks to Redeem. Interchanges would also be provided with the Yellow and Red lines in the northern suburbs. In addition, a monorail ring around Lagos Island is envisaged to serve the city centre.

If the urban rail network is completed as planned, it would reduce traffic congestion and improve road safety, increasing travel efficiency and productivity across the whole region. It offers the potential to improve the quality of the environment as well as raising living standards. Investment in the rail network would promote the spread of economic activity throughout the city and ultimately contribute to the creation of an integrated multi-modal passenger transport network.

'We have a vision of an urban rail network at the heart of an integrated transport system'

Eng Olugbenga Dairo, Technical Adviser, Lamata