By John Ikani
The Government of Lagos State has acquired two trains originally intended for a high-speed rail line to connect Madison and Milwaukee.
Heritage Times gathered that the State’s Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu visited Milwaukee to complete purchase from train manufacturer Talgo.
Acting Milwaukee Mayor, Cavalier Johnson officially welcomed the governor during a public event at the Milwaukee facilities of Spanish train manufacturer Talgo.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Johnson said after the event. “I’m sending my congratulations to the people of Lagos, but also a little disappointed that we missed out on the opportunity to have those trainsets operating here in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin’s loss, Lagos Gain
In 2009, Wisconsin’s then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, 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.
Frank Busalacchi was Wisconsin’s Secretary of Transportation at the time.
“I certainly didn’t expect what happened to happen,” said Busalacchi. “It was unfortunate, but I think now, as you look and see where the world is going, not just our country, where the world is going, it was the right thing to do.”
The plans died off after Republican Scott Walker became governor. But by 2012, Talgo had built the trains, and sent an invoice to the state for them. Later that year, Talgo terminated the contract and sued the state, kicking off a court dispute that lasted almost three years.
Ultimately, under the terms of a settlement between Wisconsin and Talgo, the state paid the company a total of $50 million for the trains, which remained under the company’s ownership.
“The partisanship got so deep that literally, Wisconsin is making decisions that amount to shooting yourself in both feet,” Bauman said. “Who buys a set of train cars, refuses to complete the contract, ends up getting sued, settles, pays out another $50-some million in damages, and then you don’t even get the cars?”
The trains sat unused in an Amtrak facility in Indiana for years, a lasting reminder of the dispute. They eventually returned to Talgo’s plant in Milwaukee in 2019.
“I’m glad that they were able now to sell them to somebody, that somebody is going to use them,” Busalacchi said. “The fact that after many years, Talgo’s found a buyer for the trains, I mean, kudos to them.”
What you should know
The acquired trains are set to become part of West Africa’s first operational metro system, according to a press release.
The Talgo trains are are expected to begin operation later this year, serving up to half a million passengers in the Lagos area daily.
As Africa’s fifth-largest economy and being one of the smallest states in Nigeria with a population of 22 million people and counting, Lagos records 30% vehicular movement of the country’s total mobility.
The development would help reduce the burden of heavy traffic on roads which Lagos residents lost many weekly working hours to.