30 December 2012

Nigeria: Rail - An Alternative Transport System


Recently, the Federal Government officially commissioned the 1,128-kilometre Lagos-Kano railway line. The commissioning of the multi-billion Naira project marks the completion of the first phase of the project. The second phase is the Port-Harcourt -Maiduguri railway line that is in progress.

The contract for the rehabilitation of these rail lines were awarded in 2009 to foreign firms. Besides these major rail lines, there are intra rail lines; such as the Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri rail line; Itakpe-Obajena-Warri rail line.

One of the advantages of the Lagos-Kano rail line is the haulage of petroleum products by rail with its newly acquired pressurized light-oil tank wagons. The other intra rail lines are also expected to evacuate products from the points of production to either the nearest railway station or to the sea port, rather than by road.

The rehabilitation of the rail system is a welcome development, especially now that there is much pressure on the nation's roads. The development is all the more welcome, given the fact that the existing roads are in a terrible shape, in spite of the huge budgetary allocations on a yearly basis by the federal government. The haulage of petroleum products and other heavy duty materials such as cement, iron rods etc; usually shorten the life span of these roads.

Besides the wear and tear, the carnage these trucks cause on the highways is monumental. For the safety of the road users, we want to propose a total ban on the haulage of these products, especially petroleum products, by road, when these rail lines become operational.

The federal government should ensure that the remaining phases of the rail project are completed as proposed. This can only be achieved when funds are released as at when due. If our government is abreast with development in the rail system the world over, we should not be rehabilitating the mono rail system, which the colonial administration bequeathed us. The vogue now is the electric train or the dual rail system.

The rail is a cheaper means of transportation the world over and Nigeria cannot be an exception. With the economic downturn, most commuters would rather prefer travelling by rail. It now behooves the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to ensure that the rehabilitated rail tracks are not only maintained, but are secured.

The Corporation should also redouble its efforts at ensuring that the engines and wagons are maintained to be in optimal condition to meet passengers expectation. The security of every passenger should also be of utmost concern to the Corporation and its managers.

In this era of grave security concern in the country, NRC should as a matter of urgency work out a formula that would guarantee the safety of its passengers. Providing the passengers with an insurance cover while on transit is also a necessity.

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