The Federal Government have revealed that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) will begin skeletal operations on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail line from the middle of September with 16 trips every day.
This was disclosed by the Managing Director of NRC, Fidet Okhiria, on Saturday, August 15, in Ibadan, during an inspection tour of the project by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Okhiria said that since the track laying had been completed between Ebute-Metta Junction in Lagos and Ibadan with the stations under construction, the operation would start between Yaba in Lagos and Ibadan.
We will start by the middle of September from Yaba to Ibadan while the other construction finishing will continue. We already have 24 coaches and a set of DMUs (Diesel Multiple Units) made of eight coaches. With that, we intend to have 16 trips a day,” he said.
It should be noted that the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) announced that the track laying work for the 312km long double-track standard gauge Lagos-Ibadan railway line project would be completed in April.
The $1.5 billion project was slated to be completed earlier, but was moved forward due to the disruptions caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Okhiria also disclosed that NRC will not wait for all the stations to be ready before starting operations so that Nigerians will begin to enjoy the dividends of the tracks and coaches that have arrived.
The rail tracks on the 156km modern rail line from the Ebute Metta Junction to Ibadan have been completed while the 10 major and minor stations are at various stages of completion.
The stations along the corridor include Apapa, Ebutte Metta Junction, Agege, Agbado, Kajola, Papalanto, Abeokuta, Olodo, Omi-Adio and Ibadan.
On his own part, Rotimi Amaechi said that baring any further delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were looking at the January 2021 completion date for the project. He said:
“Before Covid-19, for every station, we have between 150 to 200 workers but now we have 10 to 20 workers on the sites. We have told them now to increase the number of workers and manage COVID very well. Covid-19 has come to stay but government has to run.
“We have to deliver our promises to the people because that is why we are elected, so, let us hope that by January next year, the project will be ready,’’ he said.
He asked the Chinese contractor handling the project to speed up the construction work for the timely delivery of the project.