By Ezra Odogu
In line with his administration’s commitment to traffic management and transportation, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has acquired two sets of 10 cars new Talgo 330kmph speed trains for the Lagos Red Line rail project.
The State government had wanted to purchase three set that had been lying unused Milwaukee for 11 years but got there to find that Egypt had acquired one of the trains.
The trains originally intended for a high-speed rail line to connect Madison and Milwaukee were enmeshed in complicated political issues before Lagos state government decided to acquire them.
A statement yesterday, explained that Sanwo-Olu completed the acquisition deal of the trains at a public event inside the Milwaukee facilities of Spanish train manufacturer Talgo Incorporated in the United States, on Tuesday.
The trains would be heading to Lagos, Nigeria for the Red Line, a 37 km track rail project started by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The red line would have 11 stations and when completed and would be the first operational metro system in West Africa, the statement explained.
Lagos State Government had last November announced traffic diversion at Kayode Ogunmokun road in Mushin for a period of six weeks in continuation of the first phase of the Lagos Red Line Rail Mass Transit project from Oyingbo to Agbado.
Speaking at the event, who was accompanied by the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde; Special Adviser to the Governor on Works, Engr. Aramide Adeyoye and Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Engr. Abimbola Akinajo, said the state government was excited to complete the purchase of the two brand new trains. He said they were in Milwaukee to see things for themselves in respect of the purchase of the trains, adding that they had inspected the trains, seen their configuration and were satisfied that they fit into the tracks of the Red line in Lagos.
“A train is not something you can just go on the shelf and pick up. We are very lucky to get brand new trains. We have seen our beautiful white and red trains.
“Coincidentally, the rail line is called Red Line and you can see they have given us the colour. We are just going to brand it and put up our seal there.
“We hope that this (purchase of the trains) will be the beginning of a mutually beneficial business relationship. Providing source of livelihood for our citizens is all about providing jobs for our people and that is what we are doing. It is about ensuring that we can build our economy; people can move from one location to another and businesses can grow.
“Part of what we have done in the last two and half years is to have what we call Integrated Urban Mass transportation system, where we will be using road infrastructure, waterway infrastructure and rail infrastructure so that we can move over 20 million Lagosians within and around the city,” he said.
The acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who received Sanwo-Olu and other government officials in the city, said: “It is a little bittersweet. I am sending my congratulations to the Governor of Lagos State in Nigeria, but also a little disappointed that we missed out on the opportunity to have those train sets operating here in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin.”
Also speaking the CEO and President, Talgo USA Antonio Perez, said “For us, it is important that our trains are utilised. It doesn’t make any good for the trains that we built to be stored and kept without passengers riding them.”
Sanwo-Olu accompanied by the Lagos State delegation during the visit inspected the interior design of the newly acquired Talgo 330kmph intra-city metropolitan trains.
“Since the commencement of his administration on May 29, 2019, Governor Sanwo-Olu has maintained his administration’s commitment to bringing the Red Line project to fruition during the lifetime of his government.
“The governor has specifically promised Lagosians that the first phase of the Red Line will begin by the last quarter of 2022 or first quarter of 2023, with a capacity of 500,000 passengers daily,” the statement added.
In 2009, Wisconsin’s then-Governor, Jim Doyle, a Democrat, had announced a deal with Talgo for two new trains to be built in the state and used for a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison.
In the same year, Wisconsin was awarded $810 million for the project in a federal stimulus bill.
But the plan died off after Republican Scott Walker became governor. But by 2012, Talgo had built the trains, and sent an invoice to the state and later that year, Talgo terminated the contract and sued the state, kicking off a court dispute that lasted almost three years.
However, some concerned Lagos residents are querying the whereabout of the Toronto subway cars that the government reportedly purchased 10 years ago for rail line in the state. The trains were then reported to have left Canada for Lagos, but nothing was heard about it thereafter.