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Train fares to rise by 1.6% in UK

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Host and hostesses of the new Lagos-Ibadan train

Train fares are expected to increase by 1.6 per cent in January next year in the United Kingdom as successive governments link annual rises to July’s inflation rate.

BBC quotes Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris as saying the rise reflects “unprecedented taxpayer support” for rail this year.

But unions said the rise was a “kick in the teeth” for passengers.

An average increase of 2.6 per cent across all fares will still be the lowest since 2017, and it will only last nine months, until the end of 2021.

Had the rise come in January it would have equated to a 1.95% jump across the whole year.

Until 28 February season tickets holders can renew at existing prices and the cost of daily fares will stay the same.

‘Keeping services running’

Rail travel has been badly hit during the coronavirus crisis, and Mr Heaton-Harris said delaying the price rise from January “ensures passengers who need to travel have a better deal this year”.

Regulated fares make up about half of fares and include season tickets on most commuter routes. But operators are expected to match their rises for unregulated fares.

It means, for example, a Brighton-to-London annual season ticket going up by about £129 to £5,109, and a Manchester-to-Glasgow off-peak return rising by £2.30 to £90.60.

Government to cut £1bn from rail budget

The rail minister said, “By setting fares sensibly, and with the lowest actual increase for four years, we are ensuring that taxpayers are not overburdened for their unprecedented contribution, ensuring investment is focused on keeping vital services running and protecting frontline jobs.”

The government took over rail franchise agreements from train operators in March, following the collapse in demand for travel caused by the virus crisis. This is expected to have cost about £10bn by mid-2021.

The rise would help recover some of the significantly increased costs met by taxpayers to keep services running during the pandemic, Heaton-Harris said.

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, acknowledged that “passengers will be disappointed” about the fares rise, adding that “governments must ultimately decide the balance between how much fare payers and taxpayers pay to run the railway”.

She added that industry remained committed to working with the government to make the fares and ticketing system easier to use.

The department has written to all operators telling them to begin immediate work on developing flexible season tickets, allowing people who travel two or three days a week to save money compared with buying daily tickets. Firms have been told these must be introduced across England by the end of next year.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of consumer watchdog Transport Focus, said, “This fare increase makes it even more important that, when travel restrictions start to be lifted, the industry is able to attract people back by offering fares that match how we know people hope to live, work and travel in future.”

Union leaders condemned the rise, with Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staff Association calling it a “kick in the teeth for passengers”.

He said, “Ministers are well aware that millions have suffered this year with the uncertainty of employment, a changing picture on furlough provision, pay cuts, wages freezes and lost jobs. So, to reach for a hike in fares of this size is both extortionate and plain daft.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said ticket prices are being “forced up to subsidise private profit. The time is right for a publicly owned railway system that delivers reasonable fares for our people as the public and the economy tries to recover and shake off the COVID crisis next year.”

Railway

FG okays N718m contracts to secure Abuja rail tracks, stations

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The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved N718.19 million contracts to two security outfits to protect the 45-kilometre Abuja rail tracks and stations.

Minister of the FCT, Mohammed Bello, said this while speaking with journalists at the end of the FEC meeting.

In March, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) suspended its Abuja-Kaduna train operations after some gunmen planted explosives on the rail track and attacked passengers.

Bello said the security services are majorly to protect key infrastructures on the rail tracks, the signalling and communication equipment as well as the electrical system.

He added that the security agencies are Messers Al-Ahali Security Guards Limited and Messers Seaguard Security and Protective Company Limited.

“I presented a memo at the Federal Executive Council meeting of today, and the council approved a contract for the provision of security services for the Abuja Light Rail Mass Transit System,” he said.

“These companies are going to provide security to the entire 45 kilometres of track including 12 stations.

“Al-Ahali security guard Limited is going to secure 27.4 kilometres of the track, covering eight stations at the cost of N407,214,000 over two years, while Seaguard Securities and Protective Company Limited are going to secure 18 kilometres of the rail tracks including four railway stations and that is at a cost of N310,979,250.”

 

 

 

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Minister gives two conditions to restart Abuja-Kaduna train service

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Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, says the Federal Government cannot restart the Abuja-Kaduna train services now because it will be insensitive to the plight of families whose loved ones are still in captivity.

He said this Wednesday while fielding questions from State House reporters at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said two core matters remained at the heart of the delay in the resumption of Abuja-Kaduna train services suspended after the March 2022 attack.

The minister said these included families traumatized over their members still in captivity of terrorists and the need to have surveillance facilities to monitor the tracks.

He said government was looking at the best options in terms of the surveillance including concessioning it in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

Asked about definite timelines to execute the initiative, Sambo said: “If I give a timeline, I’ll be lying to you. It will be insensitive to restart the service if some families weep day and night over their members still in the bush.”

The minister said government was mindful of cost involved but should be able to report definite progress in about a month.

He announced that FEC approved a contract for the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) worth about N1.49 billion for the repair of cranes.

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Chinese contractor lays final track beam of Lagos blue rail

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  • New rail line may extend to Agbara, Ogun State

The laying of the last track beam (T-beam) of a 27-kilometre Lagos Blue Rail Mass Transit commenced on Wednesday with a promise to deliver the landmark project in December this year as scheduled.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu flagged off the engineering procedure at the site of the Marina station of the rail project.

A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, said, “with the laying of the final T-Beam, all difficult civil works standing in the way of the Lagos Blue Rail Line, which started in 2012, have been overcome.

“The contractor – China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) – will now go ahead to set the rail tracks along the alignment and move the project to completion.”

It said Governor Sanwo-Olu got the commitment of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and the contractor to the December deadline for the Blue Line project’s completion.

Lagos Government will be delivering two rail mass transit projects within the first term of the Sanwo-Olu administration. The Blue Line traversing between Mile 2 and Marina will be operated on Electric Motor Unit (EMU); while the 37-kilometre Red Line, from Agbado to Ebute Metta, will operate on Automotive Gas Oil (AGO).

Speaking at the launch of the last T-Beam on the Blue Line, Sanwo-Olu said the achievement signposted his administration’s commitment to bringing succour to Lagosians and give them choices in mass transportation.

The governor said the rail projects represented the audacity of his administration’s vision to deliver a robust integrated transit system as encapsulated in the Traffic Management and Transportation pillar of his government’s T.H.E.M.E.S. development agenda.

He said, “Today’s final T-beam launch indicates that we are gradually inching to the completion of the civil infrastructure for the first phase of the Blue Line traversing from Mile 2 to Marina. The engineering work today completes a total of 1,967 piles foundation, while we have also completed three 306 platforms, 310 piers, 267 cover beams and erection of 984 T-beams.

“We are not just making promises; people are beginning to see for themselves that all the milestones and the difficult tasks we are meant to achieve to ensure operation of the Blue Line are being achieved. The Marina Station, which is the iconic terminal for the Blue Line, will be completed within two-and-half months. I am restating here that we will formally complete this Blue Line before December 31, 2022.”

The governor said the two sets of EMU coaches already procured for the Blue Line operations would arrive in Lagos from China before the end of October. He said the rail line would be test run immediately after completion, while passenger movement would start within the first quarter of 2023.

Sanwo-Olu said the construction of the second phase of the Blue Line project would commence after the start of operation, which would extend the rail project from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko.

He said Blue Line stations would be built at Festac, Alakija, Trade Fair, Volkswagen, LASU and Okokomaiko.

The governor disclosed that talks were being held with the Ogun State Government for possible extension of the rail line to Agbara.

He said, “The second phase of the Blue Line project will be an easy infrastructure to develop because the marked alignment for stations and tracks are largely at grid level. While we are at this, the Red Line is also on the way. This is a start-and-end project for our administration, with about seven stations concurrently being built. This will redefine mass transportation in Lagos.

“To our citizens, I say the Blue Line is for real and you will ride on it in no distant future. For the Doubting Thomases and people that do not like our face, their eyes cannot disbelieve in the infrastructure we are bequeathing to the citizens of our State. They cannot disbelieve in our bold effort and commitment to improve mobility and deliver transport infrastructure that brings ease to our people.”

LAMATA Managing Director, Abimbola Akinajo, an engineer, said the first 13-kilometre stretch of the Blue Line construction was divided into four phases to enable the government to fund the project from its internally generated revenue.

To get to the current status, she said the construction work experienced disturbances and delays in the relocation of submarine cables, submarine natural gas pipelines, and removal of underground shipwrecks.

“Just as we are laying the final T-beam for the rail tracks, we are also currently retrofitting the train stations at Mile 2, Alaba, Iganmu and National Theatre with light in readiness for passenger operation in the first quarter of 2023,” Akinajo said.

CCECC Chairman, Mr Liu Wei Min, described the event as the most significant level of the project.

He said, “We express our sincere gratitude to the present administration under the leadership of Mr Sanwo-Olu in reaching this milestone.

“We will continue to work to meet the ultimate target in delivering the entire project with high standards and quality.”

The T-beam laying event was also attended by Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Lagos, Mr Chu Mao ming.

 

 

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