Published on 26 Sep 2023

Nigeria gets its first urban metro light rail after a long wait

The 13-km blue line connects five stations in Lagos

Photo credit: VOA Africa

Twelve years after construction first began, a brand new light commuter rail has finally commenced operations in the commercial Nigerian metropolis of Lagos. The 13km blue line, which has five stations, connects the business district with parts of the city where most residents live. The service has reduced travel time from as long as three hours to just 25 minutes. It is expected to be extend further to 27.5km eventually. Lagos, which is notorious for traffic congestion, has been in dire need of modern public transport network for years. Plans for an urban rail line first put in place as far back as in 1983 but work only began in 2011. Constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Corp, the blue line is the first of a more extensive US$$1.2billion urban metro project which aims to eventually carry 500,000 commuters.

A single trip spanning the entire length of the line is priced at about US$1, with fares for shorter distances being lower. The Lagos state government, which is subsidising 50% of the rail fare, says the metro will help commuters cope with rising fuel prices. Following the removal of a long-standing fuel subsidy earlier this year – which cost the government US$10bn in 2022 – fuel prices in Nigeria have risen sharply.

The second metro rail project – dubbed the ‘red line’ - will span 37-km and connect the city’s east-west corridor. Authorities say it is ‘95%’ complete. The blue line is powered by a diesel locomotive but will eventually run on electricity.

Cities like Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, and Casablanca already have modern urban light rail systems, but more are in the works. In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Africa Finance Corporation is backing a new 300km rail project. This endeavour will be executed in four phases, with the first being a 25km link from Kinshasa's central station to the city’s N’Djili International Airport.

Similarly, in Egypt, rail transit is being employed to ease commuting in Cairo, a city of over 20m residents. The Cairo monorail project includes a 57km line linking to Egypt's new administrative capital in the east, and a second 42km line connecting to Giza in the west. Anticipated to start operations later this year, this driverless monorail is projected to carry 45,000 passengers per hour in each direction, encompassing a total of 42 stations.

There are also plans for a commuter rail system in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s business centre with a population of more than 7.5m. Five Chinese investors have reportedly already expressed interest in the project which is currently still in the preliminary feasibility study phase.



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DR Congo revamps its rail system as more African cities rethink public transit’, The African Mirror, 24 February 2023

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