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Published On: Wed, Dec 3rd, 2014

Nigeria’s railway project: Rekindling hope in govt transformation plan

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Transport Minister, Idris UmarBy Olatunji Saliu

With the completion of the track laying work of Nigeria’s first standard gauge railway modernization project linking the capital city Abuja and the north-western state of Kaduna, hope was rekindled that the government’s transformation agenda, particularly for the rail transport sector, would yield fruitful results in the West African country.

The project, executed by Chinese rail construction giant China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), will be fully completed in February 2015 and the rail transport services, the first of its kind in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, will commence at the end of that month.

Constructed in three years, the rail road project gulped nearly 850 million U.S dollars and lasts 186.5 km with nine stations and a design speed of 150 km per hour.

The Abuja-Kaduna rail line is one of the first Standard Gauge Railway Modernization Projects (SGRMP) undertaken in Nigeria. It is the first segment that is being implemented as part of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge project, which will link the commercial hub of Nigeriaand the hub of economic activities in the northwest region of the country.

The railway modernization initiative in Nigeria aims at replacing the existing narrow gauge system with the wider standard gauge system, while allowing high-speed train operations on the railway network.

With Nigeria’s Minister of Transport Idris Umar tightening the last screw of the rail track at a well-attended ceremony on Monday, the Abuja-Kaduna project is now 93 percent near completion, he said, describing the initiative as a “significant milestone in the history of Nigeria”, as well as a testimony that the transformation agenda of the government was yielding good results.

“I am delighted to be here to perform yet another milestone of the Nigerian railway modernization project,” Umar said, noting it will ease the mass movement of people from the

Nigerian capital city to the north-western state of Kaduna, the Nigerian official said the government, as part of its ongoing transformation agenda, would remain committed to carrying out a lot of modernization projects to make transportation easier for all Nigerians.

“We have a 25-year strategic vision for the development of the Nigerian railway. Under this strategic vision, it is our intention that every state in the country will be connected to rail.

Every state capital, including major economic corridors and zones, will be fully connected to the rail network,” he added.

Noted as a huge milestone in the development of inter-modal transport system in Nigeria, the Abuja-Kaduna railway is also very strategic to economic development in the West African nation, citizens said.

Adamu Abdullahi, a cleric, said seeing the construction of the rail project was a great experience but transiting from one place to another in the train would be a greater experience for him, since he has never had such experience as a 30-year-old rural dweller.

“I am very happy today, to be at the track laying completion ceremony of this rail line. Some of us saw the beginning of the project while some did not. That alone is for me a rare privilege. It goes a long way to say that the government has given us hope and boosted the confidence we have in them,” he said.

Another resident, Muhammed Musa, still marvelled by the timely construction of the rail road, said the project will open a window of economic and job opportunities. “We are very happy. We are grateful for this laudable project. We never expected that such a big project would come to our community. Most of the people employed during this project are our people living here in Rigasa Village. We are glad for the employment opportunity.

“We hope that our youths will continue to benefit from this construction work. I cannot contain my happiness because, no doubt, this project has brought a lot of development to us,” Musa added.

The rail line involves the construction of 30 railway bridges, including five box bridges. The bridges were built using precast T- beams.

Yusuf  Danjuma, a local resident who followed the project’s development, described it as “people-oriented”, saying the project will rekindle the hope of the people on government’s transformation plan and an eye-opener to other things that government can do for the people.

“I have never dreamed of such a project happening in our town, or in my lifetime. And now that it is here, we are grateful for the development it has brought to us. It will make us have more confidence in the government,” he added.

When completed, the travel time between the Nigerian capital and the northwestern state of Kaduna, which is almost three hours by road, can be reduced to one hour and each passenger train can carry up to 5,000 commuters.

The train will run from Idu, an industrially-developing area of the capital city, to Rigasa Village of Igabi local area of Kaduna State.  Source: Xinhua

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