President Muhammadu Buhari on June 10, 2021 commissioned the Lagos-Ibadan rail line for commercial operations, in a ceremony that had several prominent Nigerians in attendance.
With the flag-off, business is expected to kick off on the Lagos-Ibadan railway corridor which covers three states, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states. The train will move from Ebute Metta to Agege through Agbado, Kajola to Papalanto, Abeokuta, Olodo, Omi Adio, and Moniya in Ibadan.
The Sight News in this interview spoke to the Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) Engr. Fidet Okhiria to find out how the NRC intends to handle operations on the Lagos-Ibadan rail line.
See excerpts below.
The Lagos-Ibadan rail line has been commissioned, what next ?
Well, before now, we were just running skeletal services, trying the tracks, trying how we were going to operate, now we are going full blown. By Monday, we should start with four trains a day. In two weeks time we move to eight and by December we go to 15, when the signalling and communication are completely in place.
Also, we are going to have a moving block system where you don’t wait for a train to get to Ibadan before you send another one. Once a train leaves, since you can monitor the movement of the train, we can send another one when the Controller can assure that the train has left to a safe distance.
Will the train ticket prices remain the same?
We have a price for now that has been approved that we are using, and we know it is good enough for Nigerians because we have to keep the system running. To make the system run, the Government is providing the infrastructure, buying diesel, cleaning the place and providing security, that’s how we base our fare.
The prices vary, depending on the category you want to ride. We are going to have an Express Train that will leave Lagos and not stop until Ibadan, the price is different.
We have another train that will take off from here and stop only in Abeokuta, before Ibadan, that’s a different cost, then you have another one that will stop in all the stations. So, you don’t expect them to be at the same cost or arrive at the same time.
Those who want to go very fast, will take the one that will take off from Lagos—Ebute Metta and get to Moniya non-stop. I think the highest we have on the 24 seater coach will be N7,500 while the 56 seater coach will be N5,000 and I think the minimum is N2,500.
Talking about the coaches, how many coaches do we have?
We have different coaches—we have the 24 seater coach, the 56 seater coach, the 58 seater and the 88 seater coach. Depending on your pocket, you can try to pick anyone.
Will the speed of the train increase from what it was?
Yes, now that the train is going to be fully operational, communication will be in place and our target is to get to Ibadan in 1.30 hours.
How Can the issue of people hanging on the trains be addressed?
As you make your bed, so you lie on it. We had something that was not very befitting. Now we have something better and nobody has hung on the train on Abuja-Kaduna and Itakpe-Warri. I think people will respect themselves.
You see, when you are in the midst of mad people, you behave like a mad person and when you are in the midst of sane people, whether you are mad, you will find yourself behaving sanely.
The train is going to be run professionally and the new model and equipment that have been provided will be maintained to ensure that the people respect it. The only way to win is to change our attitude as Nigerians and be well behaved.
What are the plans for Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri and Kano to Maradi?
We are going to have ground breaking of the Ibadan to Kano, the ceremony may be in Kano or anywhere but I know within now and next month, there will be ground breaking. The Minister is insisting the Contractor will have to provide all the equipment for vetting before they start.
Do you have any message to Nigerians who will use these trains?
Nigerians should know that this is their own, it’s not one person’s own. The Government built it for Nigerians and those visiting Nigeria. So, we should make the best use of it. Our children yet unborn should meet it as we met the one the colonial masters built for us.
We hope our children and grandchildren will also see the structure. They might want to improve on it, because technology is growing. You have what we call the super loop, where you have to go by train by compressed air, so those things can come up but before then, let’s maintain what we have, build on it and I think the sky will be our limit.