Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lagos Metro follow-up

I received a couple of interesting comments by email:

One: use the water!
Interesting/practical way to start developing a modern transportation
network would be to first look at what is available vis-à-vis transport
corridors. The bridges, rail lines and waterways for instance are an
immediately available skeleton on which to layer a new network. Check out
this map of Lagos...you can clearly see the network of roads and waterways
as they intersect and spread away from the islands.

Also ignore comments on your blog about "the islands are not Lagos". The
bulk of lagosians may live off the islands, but this is a transport network
that recognises peoples' needs to move around and the fact is that the
largest flow of traffic is to and from the island...it is the hub of
activity. Even London's network is centred around zone 1, the west end/city
etc. but 90% of London's population lives outside this zone.

Two: Overground not underground, and start small

Good idea, but no need to base it on London, which
already had its own developed infrastructure, and is a
19th century tube for a 19th century city.

Lagos is a 21st century city, and its plan must be
around that mentality. Look not to London but to
Bombay or Bangkok.

Two big revisions to your idea:

(1) Forget the underground. Think more of overland
and/or elevated trains. Lagos is marshy, and the
landscape is fragmented. Underground is not reasonable
for the topography.

(2) For now, think of only two or three lines. Pick
out three major arteries, and run perhaps ten stops on
each of them. It would not be total coverage by any
means, but it would make a big difference to people
who have long daily commutes, and it can be
supplemented by danfos and okadas. First artery from
Agege southwards via Ikeja down to Ajegunle, second
one from Ojota to Yaba (maybe along Ikorodu Road). And
then one cutting across from Surulere to the Island,
and perhaps curving south to terminate in Ikoyi. That
way, hundreds of thousands of human beings can be
moved great distances with less pollution, less
expense (eventually), and less hassle.


Nkem 12:29 pm  

There's a lot of traffic flow is to and from the Islands, but shock horror, most people don't actually live and work on the Islands. If you compare it to London, you can cut off financial services in the East End, and central London would still be viable as a traffic hub. If you take away financial services from the Islands, all you'll have is an empty shell.

I agree that overground and use of the water are probably more viable for Lagos, think Hong Kong and Singapore.

adefunke 3:18 pm  

Rail and water, start small use what you have. I totally agree

MsMak,  4:48 pm  

I agree that that the terrain is not particularly suited to an underground network (isn't Lagos pretty close to/at sea level?)

I think, first start with dredging many of the larger canals or what have you, and making use of commercial sized ferries for transport.

Second, i dont know how far with the bus transit line(s) Tinubu tried to start, but that needs to be properly developed and expanded, including the idea of a bus-only/express lane, maybe from Mon- Fri. The goal is to ease traffic congestion during peak hours...

Third, build an overgound network, one step at a time, starting with the most obvious IMHO: a link from Ikeja (prob at the Maryland junction)all the way to Victoria Island (seeing as it is the financial center of Lagos). This would serve most of the professionals who commute to and fro and can afford the fare that will be needed to keep the line maintained and going, esp early on. Eventually, the line can get extended to MMA, and also Lekki on both ends, and outwards.

Please keep in mind that i have no idea which is east or west, nor am i in an industry remotely connected to transportation/engineering, what have you. But it seems to me that we also have to be practical in planning...Many of these services maybe somewhat subsidized, but definitely not free. And i honestly dont think someone in Ajegunle would be able to afford train far, at least not in the early stages. It should cater to working professionals and the bulk of their traffic flow.

And how about revamping the railway lines, so people use that instead of the deathtrap roads to Benin, Onitsha, Lokoja, Kano, or wherever...

Funmi Iyanda 9:25 pm  

what l here is a lot a number of people who have good ideas, hows about sending them to fashola? seriously lets try. Meanwhile can someone please stop the harebrained break up of Ikorodu road and the wanton killing going on there daily?

Ugo Okafor 10:33 pm  

I just came from a business visit in Hong Kong and Philippines. I would say that Hong Kong has one of the most sophisticated Underground (MTR) mass transit systems in the the world that I think Nigeria could not afford at this point in time. Rather we should be looking at the mass transit like the Manila (LRT) light Rail Transport that is above the ground.

We should also look at making use of the bays and oceans around Lagos Island

CareTaker,  12:13 am  

You are starting a fire here J, let's just add some petrol to it! How? Create a website for it- take it public! Ugo mentioned LRT may be best suited for Lagos - fine, he's an Architect he knows better. Get more impression from the pros- let's throw the idea out into the public domain. Funmi can help push it on her show (right?) Let's generate some noise...I'm serious.

Anonymous,  12:08 pm  

Fav anon again. - IT'S THE ECON0MY STUPID.


Anonymous,  4:33 pm  


Without wanting to "put sand for your garri", a Lagos metro transport system is a BAD idea. The fact that it SOUNDS like a worthwhile endeavour doesn't mean that it (i) is feasible; (ii) should be a priority and therefore worthy of serious consideration; and (iii) we should waste any more time thinking about it.

This is a project that could never be realised given the current socio-political and economic realities on the ground. Even if it could, we must do something to address the prevalence of poverty, we must work out how best to feed the masses and we must recognise that Nigeria is a shit poor country in serious denial.

I worked for a couple of years ('97-8) on the project financing for the Bangkok Mass Transit System (the Skytrain), which was an extremely painful transaction, involving many, many parties, which cost about US$1.7bn (then) and took about 5 years alone just to negotiate the various agreements and financing terms, not made any easier by the Baht crisis. Consider also the Channel Tunnel which was originally conceived in 1964 and cost about £10bn (with 80% cost overrun). These projects are extremely difficult in the best of environments.

Note that it is precisely for this reason that what started out some years ago as a Mass transit system plan for Lagos, conceived in the mid-80s and supported by the World Bank and others, turned into what we have now, a project to provide some free buses – people took a close look and made the more sensible decision.

Without even thinking too deeply about this, and without wanting to give you a detailed tutorial on how these projects get done, let me point to a few things:

Assumed cost I would put at about US$10 bn, given the terrain, the high cost of factor inputs and the more complicated transaction structure (because it’s Nigeria). Add to this ongoing maintenance and repair and the general (and often extremely exorbitant) fees that must first go out to the financiers and others who have taken on the construction and commercial risk.

Next, remember that the system is unlikely to make any money. Most passenger rail systems run at a loss and are cross-subsidized by the freight business. The mere fact that people are unwilling/unable to pay economic cost for their petrol, would mean that the appropriate tariffs would be far too unpalatable. So, now we’re talking about building a very expensive transit system that is unlikely to ever turn a profit.
Can the technical, labour and other construction difficulties that usually attend these sorts of project be surmounted.? What is the likelihood of the project being completed on time, on budget or even at all. Normally one would rely on completion guarantees from turnkey contractors to mitigate these sort of risks. But is there a large enough contractor out there (with a balance sheet robust enough to provide such guarantees) willing to do this. And please don’t say TRANSCORP!

Political risk. I am not sure how confident you are about the future stability of Mr. Yar’Adua’s government, and indeed those of his successors (which we must consider, given that this will be a long term project both in terms of financing and construction, but before it can break even), but I would hate to guarantee the sort of stability required to get this sort of project financed for more than a year.

Currency risks. Realistically, most of the construction materials/expertise will be sourced from abroad, providing some considerable exposure in the event that there is a significant depreciation in the Naira (which is not entirely unlikely) and thus throwing the project economics out the window.

I could bore you with a whole host of other considerations that would make such a project, as we say in the business, “unbankable”, but i hope you get the general idea.


1. Nigeria is a poor country with a population that is barely able to feed itself.

2. GDP per capita is less than that of the Central African Republic.

3. More than 70% live below the poverty line.

4. Nearly 40% of the population is illiterate.

5. Over 40% of the population do not have access to potable water.

6. Life expectancy at birth is just over 43 years.

7. Corruption is endemic.

Anonymous,  7:13 pm  

I can't add much in terms of technical advice, but I can do a bit of fact checking. Nigeria can feed itself, though it can always do a better job. Nigeria's gdp per capita is higher than that of the central africa republic (1500 for Nigeria, and 1200 for CAR). it also has about 50% on its population living under the poverty line, not over 70%. illiteracy stands at 32%

For some reason those that tend to pour cold water on any positive project on nigeria tend to exaggerate the 'facts' of Nigeria.

Ugo Okafor 11:53 am  

Having worked on the some parts of the Hong Kong Mass transit (MTR) and currently the Channel tunnel rail link projects I believe we currently do not have the

1. Money to spend on such a mass transit system.

2. The expertise as countries like Philippines, UK, Taiwan, Singapore had to import vast amounts of it to build theirs.

3. The focus 5-10 years or more especially with the selfish lot we have in power these days.

4. We do not have a developed local engineering and manufacturing base that will reduce the cost of such a project. Fabrication of a great number of the civil and mechanical components that will be required for such a project will still come from abroad hence inflating the cost of such a project.

5. And many more..............

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