Light Rail Project: Fashola Woos British Investors


As work progresses on the first phase of the 61 kilometre Lagos – Badagry Light Rail Project christened the Blue Line, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has begun wooing British and other investors to take concession on the second part of the rail project christened the Red Line which financial viability he described as much more competitive.

Governor Fashola, while playing host to the British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development (DFID), Mr. Stephen O’Brien at the Lagos House, Marina, said the Red Line which, according to him, “is waiting to be taken”, offers so much options for collaboration.

Recalling that the first rail in Nigeria was built by the British, Governor Fashola declared, “With the very strong history and experience your country brings into rail development, I think that this is where rail operators should be heading really. The transportation business here is very serious business. It is big, growing and it is not near its full potential yet”.

Governor Fashola said his administration would also welcome both ferry terminal and operators to take operational concession for water transportation in the State pointing out that the Government has already completed three ferry terminals and hope to find serious operators to concession them to while Government builds the hardcore infrastructure.

“We are also hoping we could find not only terminal operators but also ferry operators to bring in ferries here, take operational concessions and then we should all be happy for it in a mutually beneficial way. Our people get very efficient, reliable and safe transportation, the operators get fair return for their commitment and their investment”, the Governor said.

Expressing his willingness to discuss details of such collaboration, Governor Fashola said the best way would be for a British business delegation to visit Lagos and spend some days during which the entrepreneurs would go from sector to sector to see what opportunities for investment appeal to them.

“You cannot effectively market Lagos on slides and videos. It is for you to see not only the challenges but also the opportunities that lie side by side, if not inherently, in those challenges”, the Governor said suggesting that the coming Easter Carnival might be a good start for the entrepreneurs to see what investment opportunities lie in Tourism in the State.

On the on-going Blue Line project, Governor Fashola said the rationale behind it was that his administration thought it inconceivable that the city could continue to grow without a sustainable intra-city mass transit programme adding that the Government also thought that although the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system was making tremendous progress, it could not sustain the growing population alone.

“We are developing the water sector and integrating ferries and rail now at different levels of work in progress. But in our Master-plan, they are fully integrated and will begin to connect where they are not already doing so”, the Governor said adding, “For us, the idea to start the infrastructure was both instructive and deliberate”.

He said the thinking of Government was that “with the growing population, it was necessary to provide the infrastructure that will enable our people to actualize their dreams”.

“We know that as a Government, we are limited to what we can do. Our biggest contribution would be to enable things to happen, unleash power of people and, therefore, we know that their normal needs are Shelter, Clothing, Housing, Feeding, Healthcare and the provision of the environment that will enable that to happen is our responsibility”, the Governor said.

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Governor Fashola said in embarking on the rail and other infrastructural projects, Government was not only trying to improve infrastructural quality and standard but also trying to reduce the deficit in infrastructure adding, “In that process, we are empowering the people because the people had to build those roads.”

“They had to build those bridges and in that way facilitate the exchange in the economy that brought about growth, putting money in peoples’ pockets in a very real sense so that people could actually connect growth and the GDP of the State continued to grow on daily basis”.

“So that really is the underlying rationale for that project. We hope that someday, when that project is ultimately completed right into the heart of Badagry town, it will be the precursor of the linkage of transport between us and our neighbouring countries on the coast of West Africa”, the Governor said.

Pointing at funding as the biggest challenge of Government in pursuit of the project, Governor Fashola said his administration decided that if the project was to see the light of day, it had to lead from the front by building the infrastructure through both direct and private sector funding adding that it is now closing on the concession for the provision of the rolling stock, the coaches, the signalization, the power supply and ticketing.

According to him, “While the hardware has a very strong Chinese presence, the softer side is driven by the long tradition and experience of the British Union and the consortium has a large number of people who, either operate under the British Rail system or are employed there and there is also a large army of Nigerians who worked in the British Rail System who are to join the consortium and who are also petitioning that as soon as the project is up and running, they are packing their bags and coming home”.

“As long as Lagosians continue to perform their civic responsibilities, I think we can see the wood from the trees from here and by the by in the nearer term rather than the long term, the project will be delivered”, the Governor said adding that it would be delivered in phases until it is finished.

Governor Fashola thanked the British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, the High Commissioner in Abuja and the DFID “for what they continue to do here”, adding “By whatever touch the British Government continues to make the choices of those who represent their interest here especially in Lagos, I think it is a continuity of policies and programmes that deepen gains that have already been made”.

“What is important now is that a family has been built, situation has developed between our relationships. Therefore actors come and play their roles and move on without in any way inhibiting progress”, the Governor said adding that the tribute for the achievements his administration has made in the last five years belong to Lagosians whose “hard earned taxes have funded the Blue Line”.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DFID had said his visit was to find out the idea behind the Blue Line Light Rail Project and how the State Government was going about it with the hope of adopting it as model for not only the rest of the states in Nigeria but for the rest of Africa.

He commended Governor Fashola and his administration for the Project and others like it which according to him have gone a long way to improve the life of the people.

Also present at the occasion were the Commissioners for Commerce and Industry, and Works and Infrastructure, Mrs. Sola Oworu and Dr. Femi Hamzat respectively, Head of Service, Prince Adeseye Ogunlewe, Managing Director of Lagos Area Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA), Dr. Mobereola, Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Ms. Toyin Caxton-Martins and others on the State Government side while on the DFID team were also the British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Peter West among others.

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