The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N1.1billion for the procurement of two locomotives for mass transportation on Abuja- Kaduna standard gauge rail lines.
The Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, said at a forum in Abuja recently that the intent of the Federal Government was to guarantee effective mass transportation via railway.
He said that the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna rail project and others across the country would reposition the nation’s economy for the overall benefits of Nigerians.
He also noted that the Federal Ministry of Transport had also completed track-laying of the project up to Doko, Kaduna State.
Umar said that the fundamental goal of the ministry was to develop an adequate, safe, environmentally sound, efficient and affordable integrated transport system.
“This development will be within the framework of a progressive and competitive national and international market economy,’’ he said.
According to the minister, the rehabilitation of more than 90 per cent of the entire existing narrow gauge lines throughout the country is ongoing.
He noted that the rehabilitation was the first segment of the 25-year railway strategic vision as part of reforms in the rail sub-sector.
He also said that the rehabilitation of 1,124-kilometre Western Rail Line —Lagos-Kano — had been completed.
“Work on the 1,657-kilometre Eastern Rail Line — Port Harcourt-Maiduguri — is in progress while the branch line from Kafanchan-Kaduna has been completed.
“The contact for Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge had been awarded and work would soon begin,’’ he said.
Umar observed that the Abuja-Kaduna rail project in particular would ease the mass movement of people from the Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, to Kaduna.
He said the government, as part of its ongoing Transformation Agenda, would remain committed to carrying out a lot of modernisation projects to make transportation easier for all Nigerians.
“It is our intention that every state in the country will be connected to rail; every state capital, including major economic corridors and zones, will be fully connected to the rail network,’’ he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr James Li, the Project Manager, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) that handled the project, said that the company had signed an agreement with the Federal Government to construct the Lagos-Abuja high speed rail of 615 kilometres.
He said that the project, when completed, would enable commuters from Abuja to Lagos to reach their destinations within two hours.
“With the construction of the railway, the dream of achieving a seamless transport network as envisaged in the Vision 2020 shall be realised and the construction will substantially improve the wellbeing of Nigerian people,’’ he said.
According to Li, Abuja-Kaduna rail project is the first standard rail road project of the Chinese firm in Nigeria and the entire West Africa which is ready for public use.
The residents of Rigasa in Kaduna State during a ceremony to mark the completion of the track- laying of the Abuja-Kaduna recently, expressed happiness about the project.
Some of them admitted that the Abuja-Kaduna railway would play important roles in promoting economic development in the area.
The train will run from Idu, an industrially-developing area of Abuja, to Rigasa Village of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
A resident, simply identified as Abdullahi, said transiting from one place to another in the train would be a greater experience for him, since he had never had such experience as a 30-year old rural dweller.
“That alone is for me a rare privilege. It goes a long way to say that the government has given us hope and boosted the confidence we have in the leaders,’’ he said.
Another resident of the community, Malam Muhammed Musa, said the project would open a window of economic and job opportunities.
“We hope that our youths will continue to benefit from this construction work; no doubt, this project has brought a lot of development to us,’’ he said.
Corroborating this view, Mr Yusuf Danjuma, who is also a resident that had followed the project’s development, stressed that the project would rekindle the hope of the people on government’s transformation agenda.
Observers note that with the rail line, a trip between Abuja and Kaduna rural areas, which is almost three hours by road, can be made within one hour and each passenger train can carry more than 5,000 persons.
They also note that anyone living in Kaduna metropolis will be able reach Abuja between 45 minutes and one hour.
The construction of the 186.5-kilometre rail line began in 2011 at the total cost of 850 million dollars.
Observers, therefore, opine that with the railway modernisation initiative in Nigeria, it will replace the existing narrow gauge system with the wider standard gauge for effective rail transportation system.

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