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A new metro system is pushing back against the worst traffic in the world

The first phase of Lagos's Blue Line light-rail system finally started operations, after a decade of delays

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Beat the traffic.
Beat the traffic.
Photo: Akintunde Akinleye (Reuters)

It took a decade longer than expected, but it’s finally here. Lagos has a new metro system that will—hopefullyhelp residents beat their city’s traffic congestion, the worst in the world.

The long-awaited light rail service started service in the Nigerian commercial hub yesterday (Sep. 4). The Blue Line Rail, built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corp, will eventually span a 27-km (17-mile) corridor. For now, the first 13-km phase, linking Mile 2 in the largely residential mainland part of the city with Marina in the commercial center of Lagos Island, has begun operations.


Construction of the second phase, linking Okokomaiko to Mile 2, is expected to begin later this year. A second Red Line is also under construction. These two lines, in total, are estimated to cost around $1.4 billion.

By the digits: Lagos’s Blue Line metro

24 million: The number of residents in Lagos

50%: The starting discount on all public transport fares with the Cowry Card, announced by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the executive governor of Lagos. The discount prices one end-to-end ride on the Blue Line at 375 Naira ($0.49).


800: The number of people who took the Lagos metro on its first day of operations on Sep. 4

6:30-10am and 4-9:30pm: The two operational time slots for the Blue Line, as of now

5: The number of stations along phase 1 of the Blue Line: Mile 2, Suru-Alaba, Orile Iganmu, National Theatre, and Marina.

76: The number of daily trips that the the metro line eventually hopes to make

300+: The number of CCTV cameras that the Blue Line Rail is equipped with, as per Sanwo-Olu. The governor encouraged people to use the service “responsibly and with pride,” adding that, “there is no room for vandalism or disturbances.”


15 minutes: How long a two-hour road journey will now take on the metro, as per Lagos officials

3: The number of trains available on the Blue Line, as of now

150,000: The Blue Line’s daily passenger capacity

500,000: The number of passengers the Lagos metro is expected to carry daily once the second phase is functional


7: The number of metro lines proposed in total in the light-rail network: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Purple, Brown and Orange

A brief timeline of the Lagos metro

1983: Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first civilian governor of Lagos state, conceives and initiates the vision of a light rail system, with a targeted delivery date of 1986. The state government signs an agreement with with Interinfra, a consortium of 19 French firms, for the construction of a metro line. But a military coup that year, led by then-Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, derailed the plan.


2002: Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who inherited a Lagos grappling with a growing population and debilitated transport infrastructure when he was elected governor in 1999, creates the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA). The authority begins mapping out a 30-year, all-encompassing transport plan.

2010: Babatunde Raji Fashola, Tinubu’s chief of staff and then successor, launches the Lagos light rail project, starting with the Blue Line.


2012: Lagos signs a $1.5 billion contract with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) for the construction of the first phase of the Blue Line project. The completion timeline is pegged at two years, but funding projects delay it well beyond.

2019: Sanwo-Olu assumes office and prioritizes the Blue Line rail project.

October 2021: The Central Bank of Nigeria announces that it is funding the metro project along with three other financial institutions—Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, and Sterling Bank.


Dec. 21, 2022: Lagos officials host a formal opening ceremony to inaugurate the Blue Line.

April 2023: The government misses its deadline for starting commercial operations on the Blue Line


Sept. 4, 2023: The new metro system finally ferries its first set of passengers, including governor Sanwo-Olu.

Quotable: Cancelling the metro project a “major disservice”

“Reflecting on the metroline project, I think it is a major disservice to many Nigerians. Imagine how many people would have benefitted. It would have made life easier and changed the face of transport in Lagos. Whoever cancelled it or gave the advice towards its cancellation didn’t do right.”

Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first governor of Lagos state, in 2015 during the launch of a book on his journalism and political career


Mapped: Lagos’s Blue and Red Metro Lines

Blue and Red metro lines in Lagos.
Blue and Red metro lines in Lagos.
Illustration: (Other)

One more thing: The Red Line

The Red Line, which has 11 stations dotted along a 37-km route connecting Marina and Agbado, was also due to open in the first three months of this year. But that didn’t happen. Sanwo-Olu now says it is 95% ready, and should be functional before the end of this year.


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