Thoughts on my excursion on the Blue Line Lagos Metro
On Monday, 4 September 2023, the Lagos State Government officially declared the Blue Line of the Lagos Metro Transport System open for use. The first ride, from Marina to Mile 2, was taken by the Governor together with guests and members of the public (the full route extends to Okokomaiko but that section isn’t open yet). A limited service was scheduled for the first six weeks with 12 trips running in the morning and evening. This metro line has been a long time coming since Jakande conceptualised it in 1981 and construction eventually commenced in 2009.
With such an important addition to the Lagos transport system, I just knew I had to experience it for myself. Together with some of my friends, we planned our day trip on the metro. We chose to go on a public holiday as we felt the absence of rush-hour traffic would enhance our experience. Besides, that was when we could make time for it.
The first thing I thought about was where to pack my car. Seeing as I hadn’t seen any car park signs at the Marina station, I decided to park at City Mall. I had forgotten that there are pay-per-use car parks along the Marina otherwise that would have been closer to the station. My friends and I quickly began the long walk to the Marina before it occurred to us to take a keke part of the way seeing as we had such a short time to get to the station. The keke took us to Broad Street and we walked the remaining distance to the station. We got there with about 7 minutes to spare before the train departed.
I had downloaded the Cowry app before the day and loaded some money on it so I didn’t bother getting the Cowry card (this is a payment travel card used across the Lagos BRT and metro system). Once I got to the touch and pay terminals, I bought my single ticket to Mile 2 from the app for ₦375 (tickets are currently discounted by 50%), touched the terminal with the generated QR code, and ran into the train. My friends who decided to buy the Cowry card spent a bit more time as they had to register their details before picking up the card for ₦500.
The train departed at the exact advertised time of 5.30pm. The carriage was clean and spacious, and also quite cold as the air conditioning was working overtime. There were adequate spaces for sitting and standing, and it wasn’t crowded that day, so no one needed to “dress because of the person standing next to you” (if you know you know!). There were several sightseers on the train like us, there for the experience and not necessarily needing to commute.
The train moved at a moderate pace providing us with a scenic view of Lagos Island as we moved towards the next station at National Theatre. Seeing the Marina skyline and all the vehicles looking miniature was a spectacular experience. One other thing was clear from looking out into the city: Lagos can be much cleaner than it is, both in terms of sanitation and aesthetics.
The journey to Mile 2 station took approximately 28 minutes, also stopping at Iganmu and Alaba stations. We got down and ran up the stairs into the train station to tap in and then tap out again, and then run back into the train because the waiting time was about 5 minutes. And this was where the drama began for me. I had struggled with tapping into the station at Marina as the app required one to select a gate on purchasing a ticket. I looked up and around and didn’t find any “gate” so I asked one of the staff to help. She promptly selected a gate and asked me to tap and go through the terminal whilst ensuring I made a screenshot of the QR code generated, which I did.
At Mile 2, I experienced the same challenge and unfortunately didn’t quickly realise that the “gate” on the app referred to the touch and pay terminals which had been numbered. So, I had purchased a ticket and selected a random “gate” thinking that was what the staff at Marina had done. When I tried to tap in, the terminal didn’t open so I asked one of the staff and she explained to me. So I had to buy another ticket in the app and select the terminal in front of me. All of this must have taken about 2 minutes and to cut a long story short, by the time I had run from the station, down the stairs and onto the platform, the train doors were just closing! I sadly waved goodbye to my friends as I was left all alone on the platform.
I considered taking a bus or cab back to Marina but decided I would just wait for the next hour it would take for the train to return. I walked back into the station and found out that there was a waiting area but it didn’t have any seats. I had to stand and walk around for the next hour until the train returned.
The return journey was uneventful. The train wasn’t as filled as my initial trip and by the time we arrived at Marina station at 6.31pm, it was already dark. The train officials had warned us that many people were waiting on the platform for the return trip but they would hold them back from entering the train until we got out. That never happened because once the doors slid open, the people didn’t even bother to listen to instructions and just rushed in. My friends experienced the same thing on their return trip and one even had someone sit on her lap till she got up so she could take her seat!
As it was already dark, leaving the station at that time was a security risk because there were no vehicles that could take one out of the area. I had to half walk, and half run back to City Mall where I parked my car just to avoid any potential mugging. In all, it was a pleasant experience and a much-needed addition to the Lagos transportation system. The train has now commenced a full service of 54 trips spread through the day so now commuters have a wider option of trips.
Key takeaways from my experience are:
- The trains will depart and arrive on time so you have to always be at the station early enough
- You may download the app but do get the Cowry card. You can load cash on your app and transfer it to your card. Use your card to touch and pay, I learned this belatedly
- I am still not sure why the app requires one to select a specific gate when purchasing a ticket, it makes the process very cumbersome and I can only imagine how people manage during rush hour
- I doubt any of the stations have provisions for parking so if you’re thinking of driving to Mile 2 to take a quick trip to Marina and back, don’t bother, you may not find where to park
- Security is probably an issue departing from Marina station at night. I wonder how people leave there if there’s no BRT bus or if they are just going into Lagos Island
So that’s all for my excursion on the Lagos metro. I hear the Red Line connecting Agbado to Marina will soon be opened. These appear to be good times for Lagos commuters. Have you taken the blue line? Do you plan to? As always, this is the way I see things today.