Lagos – The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said on Monday that the Federal Government’s efforts at transforming the country’s rail transport system were on course.
He made the declaration at the inspection of newly-acquired executive coaches for the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge line at the Apapa Ports Terminal in Lagos.
Amaechi, who was represented by Mr Mohammed Babakobi, Director, Rails, Federal Ministry of Transportation, said government remained resolute in improving the rail transport system in the country.
He said: “What we have seen here today are the new coaches that have just been brought here, to service our standard gauge line running from Abuja to Kaduna.
“It is a complete transformation in the rail transportation sector for the populace.
“The coaches are made with particular focus of the comfort of passengers; they are very safe and have a designed speed of about 150km/h.
“So with that, we can be assured that the passengers will get to their destinations as fast as it can be, and it’s safe.
“In a very short while, they will be moved to Abuja and installed on the rail tracks, where they are supposed to be servicing, that is between Abuja and Kaduna.’’
He assured Nigerians of the Federal Government’s sustained efforts at acquiring more standard gauge coaches to meet demand.
“There will be more as we progress on the operation of the line between Abuja and Kaduna; as the demand increases, more coaches will be required,’’ he added.
Mr Fidet Okhiria, the Acting Managing Director of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), who said that the coaches were designed to run at 150km/h, added that the corporation was on track to upgrade its operations.
“This is the first time in Nigeria that we are having the standard gauge and that is to tell you that we are looking ahead.
“We have one for executive, three standard coaches and one baggage van that will carry loads belonging to passengers.
“They are all air-conditioned, fitted with vacuum toilets, CCTV cameras and TVs. The legroom is quite accommodating and it is going to be comfortable to ride in them.
“We are making progress and the government is hoping to continue at this pace and in due course, the standard gauge will go round the country.’’
He said that the NRC had commenced the upgrade of its website, to ensure that passengers could purchase tickets online.
Okhiria disclosed that the 25-metre long coaches would be moved to Abuja using specialised purpose vehicles – extendable trolleys-designed for transporting such items through the roads.
“We have already arranged with a company specialised in carrying extra dimensional bodies at a speed of 30km/hr.
“The first time, they will take two as a trial run, then the next time they will take three, at once.
“By Wednesday, the first set will go after paying the Customs Duty by Tuesday. So we hope that by this time next week, the first set would be in Abuja.
On maintenance, Okhiria noted that the coaches were accompanied with spares, saying “the manufacturer is going to be here in Nigeria for at least one year, to maintain them.
“By that time, our technicians and engineers will grab the nitty-gritty of the maintenance of the coaches.
“We hope to keep the maintenance level so that they can last even beyond the 30 years they are designed for.’’
He further assured passengers of safety and affordability, saying, “nothing is as safe as going by rail all over the world.
“You cannot hear about armed robbers attacking rail because those robbers would be crazy to attack about 1000 passengers.’’
The maiden operation of the standard gauge coaches is expected to commence in May between Abuja and Kaduna.
The corporation’s narrow gauge coaches currently operate weekly from Lagos to Kano, Offa to Kano, Lagos to Ilorin, Port Harcourt to Kano, as well as the Lagos Mass Transit shuttle