Resumption of rail transportation: Sanwo-Olu, Amaechi, NRC caution drivers as train kills two in Lagos

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi have advised drivers to be cautious while driving across rail tracks.

The governor and the Minister were the site of the Monday fatal accident involving a commuter train and two vehicles.

Two persons reportedly died in the accident, which occurred along the driveways into the Nigerian Army Shopping Arena in Oshodi.

The victims, a father and son, were said to be driving into the shopping arena when they were caught up by the speeding train. Their Highlander Jeep got stuck on the rail track.

All the six persons in the other vehicle—a passenger bus—escaped with different degrees of injuries after the train dragged the commercial bus 800 meters away from the point of collision.

According to the Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu who confirmed the incident, said a bus with six passengers suddenly veered onto  rail tracks and collided with the train.

“The agency received distress calls at 8.12 am on the above. Upon arrival at the scene, it was discovered that a passenger motor GGE 972 GE with six passengers had veered onto the train tracks while crossing the rail at PWD inward Oshodi and subsequently collided with a scheduled commuter train,” Oke-Osanyintolu said.

The two vehicles were then dragged along for a stretch of the journey before the train managed to come to a complete halt.

The Agency was able to successfully extricate a total of eight passengers, six with minor injuries were provided with on-site medical care while two males including a 20-year old sustained severe injuries and were taken to LASUTH for further treatment. The other adult male subsequently lost his life

In his account of the accident, the Lagos Railway District Manager, Mr Jerry Oche, said,

“The vehicle was on the track, the train was coming; of course the braking distance for a train is not the same with that of a car, so the train hit it,” he said.

According to him, the train which left Ijoko at 06:30a.m. on Monday hit a vehicle stuck at the Arena Level Crossing.

He explained that as the train hit the vehicle, the vehicle hit another vehicle, and the train dragged it to Oshodi Under Bridge.

While speaking at the scene of the accident, Sanwo-Olu urged drivers to be cautious while driving through rail tracks, “It is also a clarion call on our people to be safety conscious whenever they need to drive across rail track. If there is slow movement of vehicles at any railway bypass, then there is need to keep a safe distance from the rail tracks. We have been rolling out advocacy on this and we will intensify efforts on it. Safety of the people is paramount and we will do all required to ensure we put a stop to this kind of accident.”

Sanwo-Olu sympathised with the families of the victims, while noting that the accident was regrettable. The Governor said the incident happened on the day the State Government and the Federal Government reached an agreement to close down the shopping complex’s gates at the railway line because of safety concern.

He said: “This incident is regrettable because it happened on the day all stakeholders reached a consensus to close down the gates into the shopping arena. And this is part of the concerns we have been raising about commuters’ safety on this axis. We need to act fast. This fatal accident should strengthen our resolve to do the needful and prevent a repeat of the sad incident in the future.”

Sanwo-Olu disclosed that State Government and the Federal Government were on the move to create alternative entry and exit driveways for the shopping arena and other vulnerable points along the railway corridor.

This effort, the Governor believed, will strengthen safety of commuters and motorists along rail corridors.

Prior to the visit by the Governor and the Minister, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) had evacuated the mangled vehicles from the rail track.

Those injured had been treated and discharged by medical personnel deployed to the site of the accident.

Meanwhile, Oche has advised  motorists in Lagos to be extra careful at level crossings, with the resumption of train on narrow guage and the about-to-commence operations on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Guage railline.

He said: “There is an extra level of care that every driver must take now. We should not forget that we are planning to start the standard guage.

“The original plan was that there would be no level crossing but because of the temporary arrangement we have now, there are level crossings around.”

According to him, the speed of a train on a standard guage is more than that of trains on narrow gauge.

“We plead with every driver approaching level crossings to stop at a safe distance, look left and right, listen for the sound or horn of a coming train, and if it is clear, he should proceed.

“If it is not clear, even if the train is coming from a distance, he should stop because of the probability of getting stalled on the track if he attempts to cross.

“There is also the probability of the vehicle in front of him getting stalled and he is trapped.

“Let him drive safely because it is only the living that fulfil dreams and aspirations,” he said.

The NRC boss, who decried media reports that the train involved in the accident ran into the bus, said that it was the bus that got trapped on rail track when the train was passing.

“The train was on its track, it didn’t leave the track to go and hit the bus.

“We have resumed today, I am assuming a lot of people have taken it for granted that, for the past six months, we have not run; so, the laxity is there.

“However, this does not serve an excuse for you to play on the track.

Our Correspondent reports that the NRC had on Thursday announced that its Lagos-Ogun Mass Transit Trains operation – from Ijoko in Ogun to Iddo in Lagos State – would resume on Monday.

The passenger train service was suspended on March 23 as part of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.