The Lagos State Government recently conducted a test ride of the first phase of its yet-to-be-commissioned Blue Rail Line project.
The 13-kilometre electric-powered rail is from Mile 2 to Marina with five stations and it is expected to ferry about 250,000 passengers daily when its operations commence.
Before then, the Managing Director (MD) of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Abimbola Akinajo, warned residents of the state not to trespass on the rail line because “it is electrified”, advising them to make use of pedestrian bridges to avoid being electrocuted.
In a video message, Akinajo said there were alternatives to using the overhead bridges and other exits provided once the train became operational.
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He said, “If you want to cross from one side to the other, you must make use of the overhead bridges.
“We have a government that is very responsible and we have fenced all the alignments for the Blue Line to ensure that people do not cross it.
“But we see time and time again that people go there and cut the fences and they run across. This is not acceptable.
“Unlike the train system, driven with diesel engines, which most Nigerians are conversant with, the Blue Line will be powered by electricity, thus crossing the track will no longer be an option.
“The Blue Line will use the power known as the Third Rail Electrification System. It works by directly attaching a current carrying a conductor to the rail tracks, which means the entire length of the track will be electrified. That means the train will be propelled by the electricity passing through the road tracks which is about 750 volts; an amount of power three times more than electricity being utilised for domestic use.
“Crossing the track when the rail track is in operation early 2023 will mean instant death. We appeal that you make use of the pedestrian bridges which have been provided to cross the 10-lane Lagos-Badagry Expressway. The pedestrian bridge has the ability to take commuters into the train station, the bus station, as well as to cross the expressway. Please, avoid going close to the tracks; your safety is important to us.”
What is third rail line?
According to an online publication by Agico Group, the Third Rail, also called conductor rail, is a type of train powered by electric energy on two steel rails.
It explained that, “In order to supply power to the train, a live rail is added next to the railway, which is the third rail. The third rail is usually located between two rails or outside one of the steel rails. The collector — which connects the train with the electrified rail (also called contact shoe) — of an electric train touches and slides on an electric third rail to transmit electricity to the train.
Also, a publication by a tutorial noted that on most tracks with third rail, the electric steel is placed outside the running rails, but that in some cases a central conductor rail is used.
It added that the third rails had to be interrupted at level crossings and at crossovers for smooth transition to the train shoe.
It stated that the advantages of the rail were that it was cost-effective, less affected by natural disasters and reduced maintenance workload.
However, the use of electricity on the tracks makes it dangerous for humans and animals. Thus, passersby risk walking on the tracks at level crossings.
The Network Rail, an NGO that creates awareness on dangers of third rail lines, noted that, “The third rail is probably one of the most difficult dangers to see.”
It said carrying 750 volts, the track is very easy to kill as the “current that flows through is three times as powerful as your home electricity. It’s designed to send power to the train, but you are 70 per cent water and the perfect conductor – it will pull you in and not let go until the emergency services are able to switch the power off.”
While stating that researches show that in the United Kingdom, the bulk of its young population do not know of the dangers of the trail, it remains unaware of its potentially fatal dangers. It advised that the only way to avoid these dangers is to never step foot on the railway.
Just as LAMATA expressed fear that the fence it erected on the rail tracks could be vandalised, the belief that walking along the tracks due to train routes being shorter than roads or highways is another threat for trespassers to use it.
A report by the BBC said the electrified track poses great danger in parts of the UK where third rails are used with 49 deaths recorded in 2010 due to trespassers easily touching the rail line accidentally.
It added that if “the problem is not solved by having overhead power lines instead, in wet weather the electricity can arc through the air and hit people four feet away. In both cases the power is left on overnight, which many people do not realise.”
The report gave a first-hand witness account of death on one of the lines in the UK.
On July 23, 2006, Walford took a short-cut across a railway line in Eastleigh, Hampshire, with his 18-year-old girlfriend, Sammy Cook.
He said: “We were walking along the railway line and Sammy tripped and she fell onto the live rail. She was electrocuted.
“We; I and a very close friend of hers called Louise, pulled her off by her belt and I picked her up in my arms and carried her to the side of the railway line and she took her last breath in my arms.”
He added: “The railways really are dangerous places. It’s just not worth taking that risk. It’s not a playground for kids and it’s not safe for adults.”