Buhari opens Abuja-Kaduna rail line for services
• Okays concessioning of Lagos-Ibadan project
• Amaechi raises hope on Lagos-Calabar rails
President Muhammadu Buhari has opened the first phase of the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Rail Gauge for services, promising to boost rail transportation in the country.
Towards this end, his administration would pursue a 25-Year Strategic Railway Master Plan which is aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail lines, and developing as well as constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country.
Though conceptualised by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006, the actual execution of the project started in 2009 under the administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2009.
At the commissioning of the project yesterday, Buhari said the completion marked a major milestone in the annals of the country.
“The construction of the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge rail track commenced in 2009 and happily, seven years after, we are on the threshold of presenting to Nigerians a standard gauge railway train service that will be safe, fast and reliable.
“The train service will provide the much-needed alternative transport link between the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna State, a corridor which has a huge potential for industries, agricultural activities and a growing labour force.
“This project was conceived by a previous administration, started by the last government and I am pleased to complete and commission it,” Buhari said.
The president recalled that between 1963 and early 1980s, Nigeria had a vibrant rail system which conveyed agricultural, livestock and solid mineral resources to Lagos and Port Harcourt sea ports from where they were exported to other parts of the world.
“It is our vision and hope that those good old days will soon be back with us and indeed in a more prosperous way with the restoration of rail transport system.”
He commended the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and his team to have put great efforts in the last few months towards ensuring the successful completion of the project under the present administration.
According to him, the commissioning of the project is in keeping with the vision of bringing about the desired change to make life easier for the generality of Nigerians through the development and provision of the necessary social and physical infrastructure.
Buhari said: “In this regard, I assure Nigerians that most state capitals and major commercial and production centres will be linked with railway system as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of Nigerians as well as promoting social and regional integration.
“As we celebrate the symbolic return of rail service today, I wish to reiterate the commitment of this administration to pursue with greater vigour and determination the rehabilitation and construction of other rail lines including the major Lagos-Calabar and Kano-Lagos lines.
“As we get down to work, I look forward to kicking off many more lines outlined in our transport policy programme.”
Amaechi said Nigerians should expect total turn around of the rail transportation system under the Buhari administration, noting that it forms the core of plans to revamp the economy through diversification and bolstering of non-oil sector of investments.
He disclosed that the president has given approval for the concessioning of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, adding that the project would be kicked off soon. The minister explained that the president had given approval for the release of counterpart funds for the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, even as he said that work on the Lagos-Calabar is also to be pursued vigorously.
“We are going to embark on concessioning of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line very soon. That is our next line of action, especially now that Idu-Kaduna rail project has been commissioned by Mr. President himself. Nigerians should expect major turnaround of the rail transportation system under this administration. The president has approved the release of counterpart funds for this to commence. And we are grateful for the support we are getting from the president and all our partners like the Chinese government and the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).”
FCT Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, in his welcome remarks said the completion and commissioning of the project would mark a complete turnaround in the economic lives of residents of the territory, who are the immediate beneficiary of the project.
The minister assured that the Abuja intercity rail project being executed by the FCT is 77 percent completed, assuring that by December 2017, the project would be completed and commissioned.
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