Abuja to become rail transport hub

If plans are anything to go by, Abuja is projected to be a major transit point for rail transport moving an estimated one million passengers in its Abuja Kaduna route only.

This much became apparent after the New Year day broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Kaduna railway service will be boosted by additional rolling stock on Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually, President Buhari said.

The President announced this in an address to the nation in Abuja on Monday to mark the beginning of 2018.

He also announced that negotiations would be concluded in the first part of 2018 for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri railway line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu.

He said the Abuja to Itakpe railway line would go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.

According to the president, negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, “first from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic, passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.

“Secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar.

“In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people,’’ he added.

With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, the president revealed that progress had reached 98 per cent completion, as at 64 per cent completion when he assumed office.

Indeed, efforts have been on to grow the clientele base of the fledgelling Abuja Kaduna train services, Coaches procured by the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC) for the Abuja-Kaduna train service have since arrived Abuja, it was gathered.

The locomotive appendages reportedly arrived earlier in the week, some days after NRC told the Abuja resident that the complementary intracity monorail can not meet it’s December deadline.

The December deadline given by the Ministry of Transportation before the commissioning of the Abuja light rail project appears no longer possible due to the late arrival of the train coaches from China last Tuesday.

Deputy Director Public Relations, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Yakub Mahmood, who disclosed this last week, said it is not easy to convey the coaches to Abuja from Lagos, adding that special heavy duty vehicles needed to convey the coaches are already at the Tin Can Island in Lagos to embark on such mission any moment from now.

But the arrival of the intercity coaches perhaps explains the seriousness by government to boost intercity rail transport.

Out of the ten coaches being expected, four have arrived Abuja and are being mounted.

At the Idu Abuja train station at the weekend, it was observed that four of the locomotives were being offloaded.

Boogies of the trains were being positioned for eventual mounting of the coaches.

The NRC Abuja liaison officer, Mr Pascal Nnorli said at the site that the remaining six coaches would arrive anytime soon.

He said out of the ten coaches, six are economy, two executives and two baggage vans.

The NRC plans to commission the coaches on January 15, 2018.

Four months ago, the two locomotives to be used on the existing and new coaches arrived Abuja.

Fidet Okhiria, the managing Director of Nigeria Railway, recently said when the new coaches are deployed; challenges of meeting passenger demands would be surmounted.

Meanwhile, NRC said training of drivers to operate the new trains has been completed.

When the new coaches are deployed, the Abuja-Kaduna train service would have one express train service and hourly train operations, Okhiria said.

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