The minister of transport, Sen Idris Umar yesterday flagged off the much-awaited Lagos-Kano Intercity Train Services and haulage of petroleum products by railway, lifting 450,000 litres of diesel billed from Lagos to Offa and commuting thousands of passengers along the western axis through to Kano.
Inaugurating the service at the Yaba Headquarters of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), the transport minister said the rehabilitation of the 1126-kilometre railway line and other railway projects going on all over the different corridors in the country was an indication of the President Gooodluck Jonathan's administration's commitment to enhance the transport sector.
"This segment which holds the key to the development of the economy of the nation from the commercial ports city of Lagos to the commercial hub of Northern Nigeria in Kano is seen as vital to the start-off of the transformation of the Nigerian economy.
Government therefore invested heavily to ensure the completion of the rehabilitation of the rail line for freight and passenger services," Umar said.
He further disclosed that numerous rehabilitation of railways across the country along various corridors, as well as feasibility studies for the new standard gauge rail in several areas, which are expected to be developed through public-private partnership, would place the country in great stead for global competition in transportation.
NRC's managing director, Mr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, who noted the unceasing federal government support to ensure success of the landmark project, said the opening of the Lagos-Kano Rail route would no doubt bring a lot of socio-economic benefits to the development of the country, such as provision of employment, enhancing trade and commerce as well as taking pressure off the overstressed roads.
Appealing to the government, especially the National Assembly for more funds, Sijuwade said, "We face a number of challenges, such as insufficient locomotives and rolling stock and inadequate skilled manpower, due to funding constraints."