The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has said that there would be free train ride on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge rail project beginning from November 30.
The gesture, according to him, will further ease travel pattern, especially for those who wish to travel for the Christmas.
The minister noted that the operation would commence with two Executive coaches, pending when more coaches would arrive from China.
Ameachi also revealed that Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, would lay the foundation for the establishment of the Railway Factory proposed for assembling and manufacturing of coaches and locomotives at Kajola before the end of November.
It is expected that the factory would create employment and boost the country’s economy.
On the free train ride, the minister said: “My concern is to have coaches on these tracks to convey passengers, who will like to travel for Christmas.
“On the 30th, we will commence test-run but the issue is that we want to start it from Ebute Meta, but they are saying it is Iju that is ready. As far as Lagosians are concerned, Iju is in Ogun State, and that is why I am pushing them to get to Ebute Meta.
“We may start with the Executive coaches. The reason why I am certain about the ride is because of the fact that other coaches are expected to arrive in Nigeria from China before Christmas.
“Even if they arrive in the second week of December, we don’t know how long it will take them to be cleared from the seaport. Once they are cleared from the seaport, it may take one or two days for them to get here.
“But I will struggle to make sure that before Christmas, it happens. But even if it does not happen, the Executive coach will be available. The only problem with this is that we will insist on 24 passengers on each coach, making it 48 for the two.”
Speaking on the progress of work on the route, the minister explained that the policy change by the Chinese will hasten the completion of the project.
He said: “It was good that they have changed all their policies. Before now, they bring all materials from China and they have to wait for it to be imported before they start work despite their readiness to work.
“Now, they have said that all materials will be got locally. Why do they have to import doors, windows from China? With the change of policy, the progress of work will improve.
“They said the reason for the delay is due to the inclement weather.”
He also dismissed the notion that another contractor would have performed differently.
On the Kajola factory, he said: “In signing the agreement between Nigeria and the Chinese company, we agreed with them that they should produce most of the materials they need locally and they said it would be a bit difficult for them. So, we reached an agreement that they should start assembling wagons.
“Five years after that, they should start producing wagons and assembling coaches and locomotives and ten years after that, they should start producing locomotives and coaches here.
“Their argument is that if they produce, we will buy from them, instead of buying from outside and I told them that we will enter into agreement to buy from them. That way, we will be able to pay naira and save the scarce dollars.”
The Minister also noted that the factory would be solely owned by the Chinese.
Source – The Nation