Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Tuesday said the Federal Government would deliver a fast and efficient rail service between Lagos and Ibadan by December 2018.
Osinbajo, who spoke at the Nigerian Railway Corporation compound in Ebute-Meta, Lagos, during the ground-breaking ceremony, said the project was the segment II of the standard gauge Lagos-Kano rail with extension to the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa.
He said the ceremony marked the commencement of the government’s plan to improve transport links with Lagos, the nation’s economic nerve centre, to other state capitals across the country.
He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, during his visit to China in January 2016, had reopened negotiations with the Chinese government for the new Lagos-Kano rail project.
Osinbajo said, “An active and vibrant railway system confers many benefits on the society. Our ultimate goal is to restore a railway culture for both commercial and personal transportation. We are confident that the national rail project will create up to half a million jobs and facilitate the movement of up to 3.2 million tonnes of cargo per annum.
“It will also reduce the burden on national highways, thus reducing deterioration of the road networks and increasing the life span of our roads. Railway network will support efforts to diversify the economy and enhance our export potential. Just as several of our cities became known as railway towns in the past, we expect to boost economic activities within the railway lines that will eventually cut across the entire country.”
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, described the event as historic and was optimistic that the project would benefit the people immensely as well as transform the economy of the country.
He said on assumption of office, Buhari had prioritised the completion of rail projects across the country and challenged the ministry to hit the ground running to ensure their timely delivery.
The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, said that the new Lagos-Ibadan rail would go a long way in opening up the economies of states in the South-West and facilitate regional integration.
“A direct benefit of this project is that containers and goods from the Apapa Port will now be transported by rail, thereby reducing the number of trailers and other heavy duty vehicles on our roads.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, said the new Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project was a fulfilment of the promises of the All Progressives Congress to the electorate.
He called on the faculties of engineering in Nigerian universities to commence the training of rail infrastructure engineers.
The APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, also said, “The rail project is going to professionalise transportation and save the country from constant road repairs. The project will advance the transportation system in the country.”
The construction of the new rail line, awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is being jointly funded by the Nigerian and Chinese governments at a cost of $1.5bn (about N458bn).
The rail line spanning 156.65 kilometres, according to the Managing Director of NRC, Mr. Fidet Okeria, is a standard gauge double line that will coexist with the old narrow gauge rail line.