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2010: Year of the speed train

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By Adeyinka Aderibigbe

The transportation sector operated for most part of the year below optimal capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fear of resurgence and a second wave of the pandemic, the launch of Lot II, known as the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge, came with bright prospects.

From its take-off in October 2017, the pace of work had been appreciative. Given that the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri line, which was the nation’s first standard gauge, was delivered after 35 years, and the second, from Abuja to Kaduna, took 12 years, the best of cynics had written the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge off, as another white Elephant project by the Buhari administration.

 

The take-off of commercial activity was to clear the fog that the standard gauge was not a phantom project. Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had been at the vanguard of changing the nation’s transportation narrative. By December, the only feature remaining on the project was the delivery of the stations.

 

Meanwhile, criticism also seems to be changing. The issue is no longer whether the government can deliver on the project, the criticism has shifted to the fares, which many considered “too unfriendly to the masses’’.

 

Amaechi, earlier in the month, had announced a range of fare ranging from N3000, economy class, to N5,000, business class and N6,000, first class. However, when the service eventually took-off, the government slashed the economy class to N2500. Amaechi has foreclosed a further review of the fares.

 

Buttressing the minister’s position, the Nigerian Railway Corporation’s Managing Director Fidet Okhiria said the service was affordable to many. According to him, the service would continue to run.

He said more coaches would be deployed to the train tracks as passenger volume increases.

“Two luxury coaches would be put on the tracks, while the frequency will increase to two, as soon as the passenger traffic increases,” Okhiria said.

Okhiria said the frequency of trips would also affect the movement timetable, which runs one return leg from Ibadan to Lagos. The train leaves Ibadan 8am and departs Lagos back to Ibadan at 4pm.

He said 15 Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) locomotives and 25 wagon locomotives had been ordered, while wagons and coaches of various categories had been ordered by the Federal Government to be deployed on the route once it begins commercial operations.

The rail is also seen as the game changer in the maritime sector. The government sees rail as the solution to the traffic gridlock at Apapa and by extension, Lagos. Government has already given a marching order to the APMT to work its operations round the contractor in bringing the tracks into the port area for seamless haulage operations.

An active train system in the ports would expand the port’s potential as the cash cow of the nation’s economy.

Not only has the subsector domesticated the Executive Order 5, which focuses on the ease of doing business at the ports, it is preparing all agencies of government in the sector to gear up and police the nation’s waterways and national assets in order to deliver more funds to the coffers.

Despite the huge funding gaps, there has also been so much going on, on the inland waterways. One of beautiful interventions was the provision of water ambulances to prevent deaths in the event of accidents on the waterways.

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) embarked on aggressive enlightenment to drive home safety tips and voluntary compliance with waterways regulations by all operators.

But perhaps, more significant was the readiness of NIWA to begin the operation of its strategic inland ports, such as the Baro River Port in Niger State, the flagship port in the North, which despite the huge investments, were rendered unusable by lack of motorable roads to connect the inland port.

NIWA also improved its partnership with other states with effectiveness as the regulator on the waterways.

State of roads

Nigeria has 108,000 km of surfaced roads as at 1990. It is home to the largest road network in West Africa and second largest, south of the Sahara.

Since independence, the country has been battling dilapidated and decaying road infrastructure. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, for instance remains jaded, with the contractor announcing a new date of 2022 as completion date for the repair works on this critical road.

The government approved about N134 billion in 2018 to accommodate more features on some sections of this critical road.

The repairs started in 2000.  At the last count over 150 highways, 66 interstate roads and 45 bridges scattered across 34 states, are in various stages of completion.

Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola had caused a stir last year, when he said the 2020 allocation could not even pay outstanding debts owed contractors and canvassed tolling some critical roads.

Southeast and Southsouth remained zones with the worst road profile, according to statistics  by the FMWH. The story has hardly changed as the year winds down.

Fashola believes the administration is doing so much with much less, underscoring the regime’s penchant for prudence in the public sector.

But Nigerians seem not to see yet the gains of such frugal spending on critical roads.

Enabling laws

Despite its efforts, the Eighth Assembly could not deliver on any of the six bills that could have strengthened the transportation industry.

The Ninth Assembly is yet to begin work on all the bills for the sector. One of such bills was the bill seeking to repeal the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) for a Federal Roads Authority, which passed second reading at the Eighth Senate.

Other such bills still hanging are: the Nigerian Railway Corporation (Act 1955) Amendment Bill, the Nigeria Transportation Commission Bill, which seeks to establish a regulator for the transportation sector, the Nigerian Shippers Council Amendment Bill, and the Nigeria Ports Authority Amendment Bill.

– The Nation

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Railway

Lagos blue rail project gets CBN N60bn support (with photos)

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  • Train to run every three minutes at peak period – LAMATA

The Central Bank of Nigeria says it has offered N60bn support through three commercial banks for a railway project being executed by the Lagos State Government.

The funds are being released specifically for the Lagos Blue (rail) Line, running between Marina and Okokomaiko, which is one of the seven mass transit rail projects being developed by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA).

Director of Development and Finance at the CBN, Mr Phillip Yusuf, disclosed this on Thursday during an inspection of the project at Marina, Lagos.

Already, he said N45bn had been disbursed, adding that the last tranche of the funds would be released soon.

According to him, this is one of the projects the apex bank and some deposit money banks are supporting under its N1 trillion DCR Intervention, which is part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic to businesses and projects affecting the people.

He named the banks involved as Access Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc.

“The total amount that we have made available for this line is N60 billion. We have disbursed N45 billion; there is another tranche of N15 billion due.

“So, we can see the progress made with the disbursement that had been made so far. This is just one of the many projects under its DCR Intervention.”

Yusuf expressed satisfaction with work done and the solid structure being put in place by the contractor.

He said, “I am quite impressed with what I see on the ground. LAMATA had taken us around and we can see the solid structure that is being put in place in Marina.

“The quality of work is quite impressive and they have shown us all the work done so far. Luckily, I am an engineer; I can appreciate the amount of work being done.

“Most importantly, I see young Nigerians welding, fabricating and there are over 500 jobs on site. For me, that is a very good take away.”

The Managing Director, LAMATA, Mrs Abimbola Akinajo, said, “The vision of the state is to ensure that this project will be operational in the first quarter of 2022, as we are on track.

“One of the major things in every project is funding, and with the support we have from the CBN and three other banks – Sterling, Fidelity and Access, we will ensure we meet our goal and target.”
She said that LAMATA was at present constructing the first operational phase of the Blue Line, adding that five stations at Mile 2, Alaba, Iganmu, National Theatre and the Marina would be constructed within the axis.

She said that the Marina station would actually serve as the hub in Lagos State because both the Blue and Red lines would terminate at the place and the Green Line which would come from Lekki would also terminate at the Marina station.

Akinajo said that the Marina station would serve as an interchange because every form of transportation would be catered for there.

She called for the stakeholders’ collaboration on the project to enable the state government to achieve its aim, stressing that three sets of coaches would commence on the line in 2022.

She said that each of the coaches would carry not less than 1,000 passengers, adding that the signalling system in place would allow the movement of train every three minutes during peak hours.

The line is expected to run on the surface in the central reservation of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway between Igbo-Elerin Road (Okokomaiko) and Iganmu. It will then be elevated from Iganmu along the south side of the expressway passing the junction with Eric Moore Road, crossing just south of the National Theatre to Iddo, then south to Lagos Island with a terminal at Marina.

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Concession of railway services coming soon – NRC MD

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Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Fidet Okhiria, has hinted about plans for the concession of train operations in the country as a way to speed up and sustain ongoing development of rail transport system.

He stated this just as he said the corporation would continue to run the system in ways that would make the repayment of loans taken easy.

Okhiria spoke on Wednesday when he appeared at a town hall meeting organised by Raypower FM under the theme: “Interrogating the Essence of Chinese loans in Nigeria”.

Recently, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said the Federal Government had taken $2.5bn loan to complete the new 156km Lagos-Ibadan railway built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

Okhiria said at the Raypower forum that the corporation was considering concession and efficiently moving rail at an affordable price to quickly turn out the repayment.

“We are not ruling out even concession of the railways,” he said.

The NRC MD however did not give details on when and how the concession would be achieved.

A concession agreement, according to Investopedia, is a contract that gives a company the right to operate a specific business within a government’s jurisdiction or on another firm’s property, subject to particular terms. “Concession agreements often involve contracts between the nongovernmental owner of a facility and a concession owner, or concessionaire. The agreement grants the concessionaire exclusive rights to operate their business in the facility for a stated time and under specified conditions,” the authority adds.

A project consultant and partner at ALG, Joan Miquel Vilardell, contributing to an AfDB Transport Forum discussion, had said that the private sector participation had been positive in several railways worldwide, usually under concession.

But he noted that the initial concession model used in Africa and Latin America had not led to enough investment, especially in infrastructure.

 

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N567m required to hire 1,000 workers for Lagos-Ibadan rail operations – NRC MD

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The Lagos-Ibadan rail line will employ 1,000 additional workers at a cost of N567.45m per annum, Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr Fidet Okhiria, has said.

He disclosed this in Lagos when members of the National Assembly Joint Committee on Transportation visited the Ebute Meta headquarters of the NRC.

He said the current personnel strength of the corporation was 10,672 with current personnel cost of N9.14bn for 2021.

Okhiria added, “On corporation’s revenue generation since 2020, NRC has remitted N1.13bn to the Federal Government approved dedication TSA Account domiciled with the CBN.”

During the visit, it was found that the signal and communication system of the new rail line was not operational yet.

The Project Liaison Officer of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, Mr Yakubu Adogie, said the company was already working to surmount the challenge before the first quarter of 2022.

In a statement by the NRC, the CCECC liaison officer also said the company was working on the plumbing, power supply, and telecommunications of other stations within the new Lagos-Ibadan railway corridor.

Adogie added that despite the intervention of the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, in July and payment of compensation, the Nigeria Customs Service log room building had not been demolished to give way for the construction of the other two lines to connect Apapa port.

The Project Manager of TEAM Construction Company Nig. Ltd, Leonardo Portanova, also spoke on the overhead bridges and crossings in the Lagos end of the rail line.

According to him, the Lagos State Government is constructing seven overhead bridges while TEAM would build six overhead crossings.

The Chairman, House Committee on Transportation, Abdulfatai Buhari, also said the House was ready to support the NRC with necessary legislative framework to ensure effective rail transport and boost inter-regional business in the country.

He said, “You are all aware that the joint committee is carrying out its statutory constitutional responsibilities to ascertain the level of work done.

“We are here to oversee how funds appropriated in the past fiscal years were expended and how much is needed for the smooth running of the corporation against the next budgetary allocation.”

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Transportation, Abbas Tajudeen, asked contractors working on the projects to open a good channel of communication with the committee.

Punch

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