The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, says 20 new coaches would be arriving Nigeria for the Abuja-Kaduna and the Lagos-Ibadan rail lines in about six weeks.
The minister said this while speaking with journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Sunday on his arrival from China.
According to a statement from the ministry, Mr Amaechi said he visited China, where he took delivery of some new trains, to get more locomotives and coaches.
“They’re all ready. It will take six weeks to get to Nigeria and maybe one week to clear them,” the minister said.
“For the Lagos trains, it will be easy; it will take a day or two to get it to the track. But for the trains coming to Abuja, it will take one week or two to get it here.
“To my surprise, the coaches we released two or three weeks ago to go to Kaduna arrived just within two days. So, we hope that when these trains arrive Lagos seaport, we should be able to get them fast,” he said.
Out of the 20 coaches, the minister said 10 will be for the Abuja-Kaduna rail lines and the remaining 10 for the Lagos-Ibadan rail line.
This, he said, will be a temporary measure as more trains are still being built for Nigeria. He said the Lagos-Ibadan rail line will be completed once the trains are delivered.
The Abuja-Kaduna road has become one of the most dangerous roads in Nigeria. This has made passengers to turn to the railway as a safer means of transportation.
Months ago, Borno State lawmaker, Ali Ndume, after his experience on the train, pleaded with the federal government to deploy more coaches to the Abuja-Kaduna rail line in order to ease the plight of passengers plying the route.
The Transport ministry’s statement further stated that the minister, while taking delivery of the new newly built trains in China, did a test run of the locomotives and motored cars.
He was said to have confirmed that the trains were better and of higher technology than what obtained previously.
Mr Amaechi said he made sure that the contract has a maintenance clause, a habit he said he cultivated years back as governor of Rivers State.
“As governor of Rivers State, I made sure that everything I did in Rivers State was maintained,” he said.
”I kept a maintenance contract going. What is happening there now, I won’t know. So when people ask me, what do you do about maintenance? The answer is, in all our contracts, you have a maintenance contract.
“Like now, the one for Abuja has expired and I have just directed them to renew the contract. Though I’m going to seek approval from both the President and the cabinet, the Chinese should not leave the site for now,” he said.
He also said rail engineers from Nigeria are being trained in China to take over the maintenance from the Chinese.
“Also, what is critical to the sustenance of our railway system is what we are doing in China. We are training our people. The Chinese won’t live here forever, they have to go, so our own engineers will take over. And I met with some of those Nigerian engineers during my China trip. We hope that in the coming years, they will come back and then we can stop the Chinese maintenance contract in both Kaduna-Abuja and Lagos-Ibadan,” he said.
For the Warri-Itakpe rail line, the minister assured that it would be completed early next year.
“That one is nearing completion. It should be completed by January/February, March latest, but that’s not the problem, the problem is Abuja to Itakpe with the Seaport in Warri. We’ve signed all the documents, we are waiting for the Chinese.”