The Minister of transportation , Rotimi Amaechi says train services on the Abuja- Kaduna line will resume next week. The Minister spoke during a prereumption test run of the newly acquired ten coaches and two locomotives on the Abuja -Kaduna corridor .
According to him, passengers have been clamouring for the resumption.
“We are being pressured to resume the railway service before Salla”
Speaking on the Proposed increase in fares, he said an increment had been approved by the President, explaining that the increase was necessitated by the fact that the trains would be running at half capacity because of Covid-19.
“President Buhari approved the reviewed fares as follows economy N3000, business class 5000 and first class ,N6000,. That is to enable NRC at least meet up with the running cost.”
Responding to a question on if the fare is not too high ,the minister said it was safer and cheaper than the Ransome to be paid in the unfortunate event of a kidnap.
“most people using the train can afford to pay the fare and most people are of the opinion that it is notting compared to the risk of kidnappers on the road’.
Commenting on the commercial activities on Itakpe to Warri, the Minister said ” the axis is more lucrative than the Abuja-Kaduna because by the time the Ajaokuta- Kaduna- Kano project starts they will have to be conveying the pipes from Warri seaport to Itakpe but in terms of passenger burden we have moved from 300 passengers per day to 4500 passengers per day, so in terms of passenger volume the Abuja-Kaduna railway is higher.”
Speaking on the Lagos railway project which was to be commissioned in May, Amaechi said it was due to the risk of spreading Covid-19 if the large number of workers needed are assembled..
“We need about 1000 workers to work on Ebutte Metta station and we are only working with 10. The two things we can do is to either run skeletal services and be running 2 services one going and one coming ,that means they will be using the double tracks but they won’t be using the stations and if they have to use the stations, nobody should complain that they are uncompleted stations but we will only do that if there is heavy pressure on traffic, if not they may have to wait till the stations are ready”.
“We had targeted May and they were working towards May but unfortunately Covid-19 came, so we told them to complete the small stations because that one is easy .10persons can complete that station but the biggest station in Ebutte Metta, they will need about 1000 workers on site and we don’t want to risk that because of spread of the virus.
He said the Ibadan-Kano rail project is yet to begin because of funds.
Gov Nasir El- Rufai who was present at the test run expressed joy at the resumption of the services.
“We are very greatful to the federal government , particularly to the Minister of Transportation for the decision . We support it strongly .We requested the federal government to suspend the train service at the time of onset of Covid-19 Pandemic and we believe it is time to resume the train service. We had written a request weeks ago when we relaxed the lockdown we have been briefed on all the measures put in place by the Federal Government to ensure physical distancing, hygiene and sanitary observance to protect everyone so we are looking forward to it”.
He assured passengers of their security and urged that Covid-19 guidelines be strictly adhered to.
“The train is secure and well protected even the Abuja-Kaduna highwayis well protected , there has been no kidnapping case since October last year so I am not worried about security but what I want to appeal to people using the train is to ensure they keep physical distancing, wash their hands, as Corona Virus is still much around, infections are rising and fastest way to get it is a congested train, so we must be very careful and not not insist on going on the train if it’s filled to capacity, and everyone must wear their face mask before entering the train, throughout the train ride and after. That is my appeal to everyone because this disease is still with us, we have not reached the peak because when we reach the peak it will come down and there is likely going to be a second wave so we must continually be vigilant and obey instruction about public health safety.
The MD NRC , Mr Fidet Okhiria on his part said with the new trains, the NRC would increase services frosaidto 14 trips daily on the Abuja-Kaduna corridor.