Nigerian Railway System is Back on Track – CometoNigeria
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Nigerian Railway System is Back on Track

Railway stations across the country used to be a one stop place where most commuters found solace in order to beat traffic on the road. After a while, the rail tracks got dry of trains and rather became a rendezvous for street urchins and highway hawkers. But, recently, there appears to be a renewed interest in bringing life back on the railway tracks in the country. BUKOLA BAKARE takes a look at the resurgence of the railway transport system in Nigeria, the inherent benefits and challenges that lie ahead.

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It’s 6.45am in the morning in a highly populated suburb in the Lagos area and Christie Oma, (not real names) a trader and mother of three, struggles to get her family ready for the day. There are only two options before her: she could go through the road transport and get stuck in the heavy early day traffic of Lagos or go through the railway. The railway, she reasoned, was the most sensible option: it is cheaper and faster.

The railway would take her from Iddo to Oyingbo Main Market where she sells her wares. Failure to get to the train station before 7pm would mean that she would miss the train.

Christie’s case is not too different from a cross section of Nigerians who use the train which is one of the fastest means of transportation in a country that has more than 150million people.

In recent times, there has been an increase in the number of trains that ply various routes in the country.

Reports show that as at 2003, Nigeria’s rail system had 3,557 kilometres of track, 19 kilometres of which were the dual guage and the remainder, standard guage. The country has two major rail lines, one connects Lagos on the Bright of Benin and Nguru in the Northern state of Yobe State, while the other connects Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta and Maiduguri in the North eastern state of Borno.

In March, 2006, plans were on the way to establish a rail link between Nigeria and Niger but that was put on hold due to The International Court of Justice’s verdict in favour of Cameroon on the issue of the control of the Bakaasi Peninsula.

As this reporter takes a ride on the train from The Nigerian Railway Corporation Terminus in Iddo, it was evident that conscious efforts are being made to remedy the poor conditions, efficiency and profitability of the Corporation – the odds which marred its smooth operation in the past.

Commuters from the Iddo Terminus are mostly traders who are going to sell their wares across the metropolis.

Worthy of note are the coaches which are now improved and depending one’s choice, one can either ride in the economy class or business class; the latter is meant for high class people in the society who just want to pamper themselves.

The train stops at designated stations and each stop is about two minutes except in cases where cars and buses have to pass. In addition, the seats are more comfortable compared to what was obtainable in the past.

All these are an attestation that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) will live up its mission statement, “to emerge as the leader in the Nigerian transport system, using well motivated work force with modern technology;’’ and its vision statement: “to be a world class rail transport organisation, providing safe, efficient, affordable, reliable and widely linked network and customer oriented services.”

According to Mr. John Dottie, a District Manager of the NRC, “traffic congestion which is the bane of the major roads within major roads in Lagos will reduce significantly as the Lagos District plans increase in the train frequency.

“From December 2010, Lagos District passenger trains have been increased from six to eleven daily using the recently rehabilitated up mainline.

“The first and second trains leave Ijoko and Agbado simultaneously by 5.30am to arrive Iddo by 6.45am/7.34am.

“Another one leaves Ijoko by 6.20am and arrives Iddo at 7.56am while two more trains leave Ijoko by 10.20am and 2.20pm to arrive at 11.56am and 3.56pm respectively and from Iddo, five other trains depart from Iddo at 8.00am, 12noon, 4.15pm, 5pm, 6pm and 7pm accordingly and each arrive Ijoko within a transit period of one hour, twenty minutes.”

Another observation on the train is that all kind of people are found in the coaches, from the low class to the highly placed, everyone in their own world and looking forward to getting to their respective destinations.

News Source: Times Nigeria
Date: 01/03/2011

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