Contractor handling the construction of Lagos light rail may suspend work on the project due to dearth of funds, reports RASHEED BISIRIYU
The plan by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation to deliver the first phase of the Lagos light rail line project at the end of the year appears threatened by inadequate funds.
Lagos State Government is financing the construction of the 27.5km Blue Line, which has suffered a number of postponements since the contract was awarded to CCECC in 2008.
The first phase is to run from Marina to Okokomaiko.
In April 2008, the state government had approved N70bn for the project, with an estimated completion date of 2011.
But the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had, during a visit to the project site a couple of months ago, said that only the first eight kilometres of the rail line would be completed this year.
He was, however, optimistic that the Blue Line would be completed within a new stipulated time (2015) as 90 per cent of the structural work on the project was ready.
Deputy Managing Director of CCECC and Project Manager, Shi Hongbing, said the pre-castings for the rail bridge had been done and promised that before 2012, the company would complete the rail from Mile 2 to the National Theatre.
However, a source at the CCECC office in Lagos on Friday expressed doubt about completing the project on schedule.
For instance, the source said the Fashola administration was having “a major financial constraint at the moment and it is doubtful if it will be able to fulfill its financial commitment to the rail project; this may affect the pace of work.”
The official, who did not want his name published because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said the contractor could be compelled to place its labour force on suspension.
External Relations Specialist, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, Mr. Kolawole Ojelabi, said the agency was not competent to speak on funding, adding that it was in charge of supervising the project.
He insisted that only the state tender board or the ministry of finance could offer information about the funding of the light rail project.
But an official in the Governor’s office, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said securing funds to complete the project was giving the state government a sleepless night.
The source said Governor Fashola recently challenged members of his cabinet, especially those connected with the project, to come up with fresh ideas of raising funds to complete the rail line in 2015.
The official said work was progressing on the project from the National Theatre to Mile 2, based on the last payment made to the Chinese firm.
The source also noted that besides funding, the readiness of the project was also dependent on the supply of rolling stock by the concessionaire that would operate the line.
“The railway equipment including electric power, signalling, rolling stock, and fare collection equipment would be provided by the private sector under a concession contract,” he said.
He said LAMATA would be responsible for policy direction, regulation, and infrastructure for the network and added that the concessionaire would generate its own dedicated electricity.
LAMATA had proposed seven rail lines under the light rail project. The six other rail lines in the network are Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Purple, Brown and Orange.
The Blue Line is expected to have 13 stations. According to a document on the project obtained from LAMATA’s website, the end-to-end journey time has been approximated at 35 minutes. It is being built as a high capacity, electrically powered rail mass transit system.
Most of the route will be on the surface, running east-west, in the central reservation of the rebuilt 10-lane Badagry Expressway between Igbo-Elerin Road (Okokomaiko) and Iganmu.
The line will run on elevated structure from Iganmu along the south side of the expressway passing the junction with Eric Moore Road, crossing just south of the National Theatre to Iddo, then south to Lagos Island with a terminal at Marina.
A maintenance and storage facility will be constructed at Okokomaiko, with a track connection from the Blue Line to the depot.
The line will operate over a secure and exclusive right-of-way, with no level crossings and no uncontrolled access by pedestrians or vehicles.
Governor Fashola had said the concrete pillars being set up at Iganmu would hold the rail bed to link the rail line to Iddo on its way to Okokomaiko. He added that with the completion of the first seven kilometres of the rail line, five stations would also have been completed; and in line with the terms of the contract, the concessionaires would be supplying the coaches for full operation.
He said, “We have moved from vision to dreams and to reality. The project has taken off; the baby has been born, it is left for us to nurture it to adulthood.
“This is going to be the most impactful project this state has ever had. You can only imagine the number of people that will be employed, both directly and indirectly, when the project is finished. It will reduce travel time and all the stress associated with traffic will be removed. Lagosians will travel in comfort.”
The idea of developing a light rail network for Lagos was revived by Governor Bola Tinubu in 2000 with a formal announcement of the construction in December 2003.