The Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, is yet to commence full cargo operations two months after launch. The cargo train service was launched alongside the passenger inter-city train service on the penultimate week of December 2012.
However, investigation by Vanguard showed that while the passenger train service was completing its sixth inter-city operation by the end of January, the cargo train service train has remained sketchy after a test-run operation which carried twenty tankers of petroleum product, about 40 metric tonnes at the launch. NRC has said this is as a result of limited freights wagons.
Speaking to Vanguard at the Apapa railway station, the Apapa station manager, FNCE Okorie, noted that cargo train service has remained sketchy as a result of inadequacy in the availability of freight wagons.
"There has not been any week since the lunch which we did not move. But because of the inadequacy on the part of the available locomotives, one has to return before another one takes off and that has been causing delay."
Mr. Okorie who noted that some of the cargoes that have been moved included cement and some construction materials used in the rehabilitation of the rail tracks also said that NRC has got offer from Flour Mills of Nigeria and lifting of their products will commence in the next two weeks.
"For now, we are moving more of constr materials for the contractors that are working on the rails. We have also moved cement from Ewekoro in Ogun state but we move more of the construction materials for some of these companies like CCECC and to some parts of the west where they are doing constructions.
Most of our wagons are fully engaged on all these construction materials. But we already have some offers from some private companies like Flour Mills and in less than two weeks, we will be moving their products." Mr. Okorie explained.
When contacted on the telephone, the Assistant Director, Public Relations, Mr. David Ndanusa denied that cargo trains service has been skeletal. He said that NRC has three cargo trains at the moment and has undertaken four cargo train operations since after after the launch. He enumerated their operation since after the launch.
"We have carried cement for Lafarge Wempco Ltd from Lagos to Illorin, ofa and Minna, sand traffic between kanfachan and Oturkpo, and wheats traffic from Apapa to Kaduna. We have also carried construction equipment for CCECC and lifted petroleum products from Apapa to Kaduna up to five times."
Mr. Ndanusa maintained that although NRC earns more money in the passenger train service, the cargo train service is still effective at its current operation capacity. Asked why some members of the staff at the Apapa station, including the station manager, are not aware of the regular traffic at the cargo section, he said that was because they are not in the operations section.
"If they are not in the operation, they won't know because they may not be around when the trains leave." However, on the course of this investigation, Vanguard found some engineers at the cargo train workshop working on two cargo trains but no cargo trains were seen offloading any products.