President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday commissioned the two locomotives and 10 executive passenger coaches procured by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to be deployed on the Abuja-Kaduna train service.
The president who commissioned the rolling stocks promised that all economic zones across the country and the states’ capital will be linked to the railway to facilitate businesses, human movements, and cargo.
The Abuja-Kaduna train line service was previously commissioned in July 2016 by President Buhari. It currently runs four trips per day and transports about 1280 passengers daily to and from Abuja and Kaduna.
“The government is committed to linking all major commercial and production centers by rail for rapid social economic development and improving the quality of life of the citizens and improving the national integration,” he said.
President Buhari promised further investments on the service. “Other supporting projects that have been approved is the procurement of more locomotives, coaches, wagons, workshops, and equipment that would be used for standard gauge lines,” he said.
The president also promised to ensure all the other railway expansion projects across the country are executed.
He said the government would further focus on coastal rail from Lagos-Calabar with branches to Benin, Agbor, and Onitsha to Port Harcourt. He also said another standard gauge line will be built from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri with branches to Owerri, Akwa, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Yola, and Damaturu.
The federal government will also focus on Kano-Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibiya to link to Maradi in the Niger Republic as part of regional railway inter-connectivity of the ECOWAS sub-region, he said.
Buhari said the concession for the narrow gauge to General Electric should be completed this year even as he said the railway laws will be amended and regulations strengthened to attract private sector investments into the rail sector.
The minister of transportation Mr. Rotimi Amaechi said at the commissioning that the government will do everything possible to ensure that the Lagos-Ibadan double gauge railway is completed in December and commissioned first quarter of 2019.
The minister also announced that other railways projects will commence this year. He said the government will need between $36 billion to $40 billion to complete all the slated railway projects.
The minister also confirmed that the train fares will go up following improved services and rising cost of operations. He said the new fares which will soon take effect will see economy coach travelers pay N1,200 per trip (previously N900) from Kaduna to Abuja while the business class coach travelers will pay N3,000 per trip (previously N1500) from Kaduna to Abuja.
The minister also revealed that the Warri-Itapke standard gauge line abandoned for over two decades will be completed by September 2018 even as the seven coaches procured for the service will soon arrive the country from China.
With a total 14 coaches (previously four) and four locomotives (previously two), the NRC is targeting two hourly train services and at least eight train services (previously four) daily. That means there will be four train services from Abuja and Kaduna daily.
Our correspondent further gathered from Engr. Niyi Ali, the director of operations of NRC that after about two months of operating the eight trips, the service will move to 12 trips daily adding that when that happens, an hourly train service will be possible on the route.
“We will start with eight this Friday and run for about two months. Within the period, we will study the passengers’ flow and technical operations. Then we will go to 12 services daily” he said.
Among the new services to be introduced on the route is an express service that will not stop at all the nine stations like the normal services. But it’s not immediately clear if the express service will cost more. The express service will only stop at Idu, Kubwa, and Rigasa train stations.
Also, an additional baggage carriage van has been introduced on the service.
At the launch of the inland dry port, the President urged Customs and ports officials to make these facilities work and not to frustrate business, commercial and industrial enterprises with unnecessary bureaucracy.
He said that will inflict delays and hardships in the process thereby defeating the object of the whole exercise as has happened in the past.