Legal and Judicial Affairs

The Lagos-Ibadan rail: an economic front tier

The Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge line is one of the major ongoing project by the Nigerian President Buhari led administration nearing completion. Begun nearly three years ago, the 160km line will run from Iddo in Lagos state to Ibadan in Oyo State, passing through Abeokuta in Ogun State. It will also have an extension to the Apapa Ports Complex in Lagos state.

Awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, the project is jointly funded by the Nigerian and Chinese governments.

It will run at speeds of up to 150km per hour. The standard gauge is new to the railway system in Nigeria. It is wider and more stable than the narrow-gauge, allowing for higher speeds and greater load-bearing capacity.

Managed by the Nigeria Railway Corporation NRC, under the support of the Minister of Transport Rotimi Ameachi, the standard gauge railway line is an ambitious project meant to revolutionalize the railway industry of Nigeria.

According to Jerry Oche, the NRC Lagos district manager, the train, when completed, would be travelling by 150 kilometres per hour on the 156 kilometres Lagos � Ibadan trip in less than two hours. With the new standard gauge you can reside in Ibadan and be working in Lagos which is a very good development to people and for our economy, he said.

It is capable of conveying over 400 passengers from one point to another.

Railway transport in Nigeria

Nigeria operates a four tiered transport system. While there has been success in areas like land and air, such has not been replicated in rail. The coming on board of the standard gauge rail will address the long neglect of the industry.

The Nigeria railway corporation is the state-owned enterprise with exclusive rights to operate railways in Nigeria. The rail system consists of 3,505km of 3 ft 6 inch gauge line and 507 km of standard gauge lines. It was one time the major means of transportation in Nigeria. But years of neglect of both the rolling stock and right of way have seriously reduced the capacity and utility of the system.

Standard gauge network

The project to restore the railways and restructure the system thus came underway in 2006 when government contracted with CCECC to build the Lagos-Kano Standard gauge railway. After many delays, the segment from Abuja to Kaduna (187 km) opened officially on 26 July 2016. Its success as explained by NRC Deputy Director Public relations Yakub Mahmood has given room for greater patronage.

The first was commissioned in 2016 by His Excellency the President Muhammadu Buhari which is from Abuja the federal capital territory to Kaduna and that one is a success story. We have been recording success, patronage and even that particular route between the federal capital and Kaduna is an eye opener that drew the attention of government that people now derive more pleasure in travelling by rail system.

The Lagos-Ibadan section which is the second phase began construction in March 2017. As part of a three faced project, the third phase will link Kano to Port Harcourt and Lagos.

The project awarded to CCECC was at the cost of N458 billion and had a set deadline in which by then the government will deliver a fast and efficient rail system between Lagos state and Ibadan the capital of Oyo state.

The Lagos Ibadan railway project is in the western part of Nigeria. It starts from Lagos, the largest Nigerian coastal city, passes through Abeokuta in Ogun state and to Ibadan in Oyo state. The project was originally billed to be completed in May, 2020, but was reversed to March 31, 2019, based on pressures from the federal government.

Further plans

As part of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, government will deploy about 16 locomotives, 40 coaches and 120 wagons.

A coach is a railway carriage used by passengers for seating in a train, while the wagon is a railway truck used for transporting goods or for other specified purpose.

While the coaches and locomotives has been delivered, the government has expressed a further plan of restructuring the system.

Delivery of the Coaches

The Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi hinted that the government was planning to link Ibadan and Kaduna by rail once the ongoing work on the Lagos-Ibadan railway project was completed.

He also stated that the federal government had the intention of unbundling the NRC into about three companies.

Amaechi said we intend to break the NRC into three companies and we are working on that. One of the companies will manage the tracks, another will operate, and then the third one will be saddled with task of marketing.

Challenges

The project is without its challenges that are threatening to revise the completion period. This includes the several kilometres of gas, water pipes and telecoms cables that will be relocated and also the army barracks at Ebutte Meta Lagos state that needs relocation. Although a concession has been agreed between the army and the Ministry of Transportation, the construction company has managed to circumvent the bridges and gas pipe lines as explained by Yakub Mahmood.

The proposed station site at Ebutte Meta

Ongoing train station construction at Alagomeji, Ebutte Meta

Presently part of the Ebutte meta army barrack has been removed to make way for the construction of a train station.

Economic benefit

Besides moving goods and people faster, expanding Nigeria’s rail service is useful because of it broad economic benefits. A dependable rail service could encourage less road use, which would significantly reduce pollution levels, and has the potential to transform the culture of entire cities

One of the most attractive features of rail is its ability to move a large number of people at once, which is very instrumental in driving productivity. In fact, part of the aim of nationwide rail expansion is to provide additional jobs for the populace- it is projected to create up to 250,000 direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.

For Lagos state, which has a high traffic cost from people stuck on its roads, another consequence of the rail project will be spending less on road repair. Across the country, 90% of passengers freight travel in Nigeria already occurs via roads. According to the vice president Yemi Osinbanjo, the railway network is also expected to facilitate movement of over 3.2 million tonnes cargo per annum.

The federal government seems very keen on completing the project which is a welcome development. Picking a cue from the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, it is likely that Nigerians will soon enjoy the benefit that comes with a similar railway project.

For now there are has been series of test running and a directive for the commencement three months free train ride for passengers.

Source: Voice of Nigeria