MAYOR of London, Alderman Alan Yarrow yesterday pledged the United Kingdom's support to the Lagos State Strategic Transport Master-plan, particularly the Lagos Rail Mass Transit Project (Blue Line project) currently under construction.
Yarrow, who led a team of London business delegation to a round-table meeting with state officials and an inspection tour of the Iganmu (National Arts Theatre) station of the project on Wednesday, said the strategic plan to ease the transport need of the fast growing Lagos population was commendable.
He said they were not unaware of the "frustration of the average commuters" wasting several man-hours to move from one part of the state to the other.
He said commitment to infrastructural development in transport sector was therefore important to making Lagos a successful region, adding that it must also backed with the rule of law.
In his assessment after the tour, he said: "You have a good strategic plan and there is no two ways to it. There is obviously going to be bumps on the way; to use the cliche. But the reality is that you need to start thinking progressively on how to fund it and you should start now rather than later," Yarrow said.
On UK's support, he said: "It is all about the structure, protection of the investor, the rule of law and make sure that you have the right contracts in place. I have spent 43 years in the investment banking. I have very often seen stations like this but this is a long way from being finished.
"It is a very existing story to have this in Lagos but it has to be funded because it will do Lagos a lot of good. If we and UK can help, giving the right financing package, we will do so," said.
During the meeting, which had in attendance officials of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and State Ministry of transport, the mayor and his team had asked questions bothering on funding of the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) scheme currently running, issues of land acquisition, operation hours of the services and return on investment.
It would be recalled that the Blue Line project is one of the projects in the transport strategic master plan to be implemented in the next 20 to 30 years. The $20b worth of plan has projects like six rail lines; one mono rail; 14 BRT lanes; three cable car projects and 20 waterway routes.
The Blue Line Project, being one of the six rail lines, is an 11 stations, 27.522km rail track from Okokomaiko to Marina. Though solely funded by the State government, paucity of fund has delayed the project that was initially due for completion in 2012.
Chief Executive Officer of LAMATA, Dayo Mobereola, said that the delay was due to funding issues, which was part of the reasons the state government is wooing potential investors into the capital intensive project.
Mobereola said that the project, aimed to find a sustainable solution to the problem of transport in Lagos, needs very robust financial and technical support and very good institution to drive it.
He said that the visit was to showcase their plans to London investors and woo them to the project.
"The gain here today is that the British government has indicated that they are willing to support us and that is good for us," Mobereola said.