An analysis By Taiye Edeni, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The railway is one of the oldest, effective and efficient means for transporting passengers and cargoes across the world.
In Nigeria, however, the railway for many decades, suffered severe neglect which observers attributed to poor funding by successive governments at the centre and massive corruption.
When in 2011, the then Federal Government decided to revive the rail transportation system, stakeholders in the transport sector greeted the move as a very welcome development.
They noted that the project, if successfully implemented, would not only improve efficiency and effectiveness in the transportation system, but also reduce pressure on the nation’s roads as well as curtail road mishaps that continues to claim lives daily.
The Abuja-Kaduna Rail Modernalisation project which was contracted to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Ltd, is now completed and ready for President Muhammadu Buhari to formally inaugurate it to commence for commercial services.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, Buhari will on Tuesday inaugurate the rail line which runs from Idu in Abuja up to Kaduna.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said that the completion of the project was in fulfillment of the present administration’s promise to complete projects started by the former administration, with a view to easing the plight of the people.
He said that the transport fare would be subsidised with passengers paying N500 for economy class and N1,000 for business coach.
The All People’s Congress (APC) National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who also had a ride in the train during the last test run and inspection last week, said that the Buhari administration was committed to extending the railway to important economic centres across the country.
According to him, the project has already started and will continue until the goal is realised.
Meanwhile, Mr Fidel Okhiria, the Acting Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), has reiterated the fact that a functional rail infrastructure will bring about development in the society.
Okhiria described railway as the “mother of all transportation’’ because it moves a lot of passengers conveniently and safely, and reduces pressure on the road.
According to him, the Abuja-Kaduna rail project is standard gauge with four coaches that can convey 380 passengers with two economy coaches and one business coach.
He said that the train originates from Idu in Abuja, picking and dropping passengers along the way and terminates at Rigasa in Kaduna.
Okhiria said that there are nine stations along the 186 kms rail line from the Idu station to Kuchibon, Asham, Jere, Gidan, Rijauna, Dutse, Kakau and terminating at Rigasa in Kaduna.
According to him, the train will travel at a speed limit of 90 kms per hour.
He also said that CCECC would manage the project for two years before handing it over to NRC for maintenance, subsequently.
On security, he said that both private security operatives and the
Nigeria Police would be deployed to support the various stations’
According to Mr Muktar Muhammed, CCECC’s Public Relations Officer, the contract was signed in October 2009, with a commencement date of Feb. 20, 2011.
Muhammed said that the project was completed at the cost of 874 million dollars with China Exim Bank providing 500 million dollars while the Federal Government contributed the balance as counterpart funding.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the news of the launch of commercial trail transportation from Abuja has received mixed reactions of both excitement and fear.
While many Nigerians who had never experienced travel by rail are excited and eager for the trains to finally roll in Abuja, others have expressed fear over the sustainability and maintenance of the project.
Those who expressed fears, said that they were worried because many rail routes under the management of the NRC had long become moribund.
They, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to allow the CECC to manage the project to ensure its sustainability since it
would be run as a private business.
On some of the lapses observed, Mr Solomon Moses, a prospective traveller, stressed the need to provide perimeter fencing to avoid accidents that could arise from human beings or animals crossing rail tracks.
Moses also observed that prospective passengers who wanted to have a first time rail travel experience got frustrated while searching for the Idu station due to the absence of sign posts.
According to him, these lapses, if not addressed might hinder patronage from the Idu end of the rail line.