Unlocking Lagos: How the Blue Line Metro Train is Transforming West Africa’s Most Populous City
On Monday, September 4th, 2023, the Blue Line metro train commenced its operations. With rapid urbanization, Lagos has emerged as the most populous city in West Africa and is projected to become the world’s most densely populated city within a decade. Consequently, Lagos is notorious for its traffic congestion and transportation challenges. This is where the innovation of the Blue Line train comes into play.
The first phase of the Blue Line spans 13 kilometers and includes five stations: Marina, National Theatre, Orile, Suru, and Mile 2. The second phase will extend this distance to a total of 27 kilometers. Once fully completed, this line will cater to approximately half a million passengers daily; during its initial phase alone it is estimated to serve around 250 thousand passengers each day. Each train consists of four coaches that provide comfortable seating for up to 180 individuals.
Driven by my curiosity, I embarked on a mission to document my train experience. In order to catch the second scheduled train departing from Marina at 8:09am to Mile 2, I left home bright and early. To board the train, one must utilize either their cowry card or app to make a payment by tapping in. The total cost of the journey is normally 750 Naira; however, there is currently a generous discount of 50 percent, bringing it down to just 375 Naira.
Once payment is made, you proceed to the train terminal and patiently await its arrival. The entire process operates seamlessly as the doors open and close automatically at their designated times — punctuality is key here. Personally experiencing both legs of this round trip — from Marina all the way up until MILE 2 — gave me valuable insights into this fully automated mode of transportation.
I had the pleasure of meeting a family of three who decided to embark on a train journey for the first time. Their excitement was palpable as they described their experience. “It was absolutely fantastic! We had never been on a train before, so this was a new and thrilling adventure for us. The trip went smoothly, and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.” The family saw this as an opportunity to not only have an enjoyable outing but also recognized the potential economic benefits and reduced traffic congestion that could come from promoting train travel.
They pointed out the stark contrast between traveling by bus versus by train. On their return journey, they noticed how crowded the coaches were with people from different backgrounds and tribes commuting to work. They found it fascinating that trains can accommodate such large numbers of passengers efficiently. Moreover, they appreciated that train fares were affordable, making it accessible to many individuals. Mr Owoyele shared his hope for more train routes in Lagos and other states in Nigeria following this positive experience. He believed that expanding rail infrastructure would bring about economic growth similar to what he has observed in London or America.
Lagos is known as a bustling commercial city where various cultures converge, I call it a “no man’s land”. Mr Owoyele emphasized his belief that the Nigerian government should prioritize developing more railway networks across Lagos and throughout the country as part of efforts to boost economic prosperity while reducing reliance on fuel-driven transportation modes like cars.
Enjoy the gallery of photographs I got from the train below.
Texts and Photographs by Taiwo Aina. Read about my ongoing projects on my website.