Nigerians who often feel unsafe in Nigeria’s airspace and yet cannot endure a nine-hour road trip between Lagos and Abuja, have received cheery news from the federal government who announced the planned take-off of a three-hour high-speed train project between the two cities.
Announcing this in Abuja on Wednesday, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, disclosed the federal government’s partnership arrangements with private firms within and outside Nigeria towards the commencement of the project.
Umar made this disclosure at the public presentation of a book, “Showcasing Goodluck Jonathan’s Monumental Strides: A Third Party Perspective,” authored by the Director-General of Citizens Network For Peace and Development in Nigeria, Mr. Dressmann Preye.
According to Umar who also said the Abuja-Kaduna rail project would commence full operation next month, the federal government equally carried out a number of feasibility studies with the plan to construct more standard gauge lines across the country.
He disclosed that the government had also successfully completed feasibility studies in seven new corridors including, the Abuja-Lagos high speed train adding that different private firms within and outside Nigeria have expressed interests in the project. The project, largely expected to be private sector-driven, according Umar, would formally take-off in 2018,
“The consultants who carried out the feasibility studies have submitted their reports. Part of the report contains the involvement of the private sector to drive the project. This is because we want to develop these lines under a public, private partnership arrangements.
“We have already received a lot of expression of interests even ahead of advertisement for the purpose from various companies in the country and indeed, in other countries of the world.
“The idea is that, if we have this in place, the trains can move from Abuja to Lagos and from Lagos to Abuja in a maximum of three hours. We are intending to compete favourably with other transportation systems in carrying passengers from Abuja to Lagos.
“When fully actualised, a train will leave Abuja to Lagos and Lagos to Abuja, every hour. The feasibility studies had been completed, it is not a question of story. The trains will start running within the next three years, say by 2018.”
He further explained that the federal government had completed the rehabilitation of western rail lines through the administration’s revivalist strategy in the rail transport sector, insisting that Jonathan’s government is working towards the completion of the eastern line.
He said: “At the moment, the trains are moving from Port Harcourt all the way to Gombe – a distance of over 1, 000 kilometres but as soon as the security situation improves around Borno State, we will complete the line from Gombe to Maiduguri.
“While that is going on, we have constructed the standard gauge from Abuja to Kaduna. We have completed the laying of the track and very soon, President Goodluck Jonathan will inaugurate it and by March this year, we are going to commence full operation on that line.
“We have placed orders for the procurement of locomotives and coaches that we are going to deploy on the track. It is a standard gauge. The trains can move on an average speed of 150 kilometres per hour.
“That means that in a maximum of one and half hours, you can leave Kaduna for Abuja and from Abuja to Kaduna by rail. It is the first standard gauge to be completed fully in the whole of West Africa.”
He used the forum to drum support campaign for the re-election of the president for another term of four years, saying his re-election, would offer him the full fledged opportunity to complete the projects in the works.
Also speaking at the occasion, Preye, the author of the book, said the contents were drawn by a team of independent media practitioners as well as representatives of civil society organisations whom he said carried out an on-the-spot assessment of all projects executed by Jonathan’s government.
“I am convinced that this book, will serve not only as a research material but also, a proof that the transformation agenda is working and is yielding fruits,” he claimed.
In his submission, the book reviewer, Dr. Casimir Anyanwu, accompanied by his wife, Senator Chris Anyanwu, said the book embodied the landmark achievements of Jonathan’s government in 15 critical sectors of the economy.
Such areas where he said federal government’s footprints had been visible were macro-economic management strategies; trade and Investment policies; infrastructure development; agricultural transformation; oil and gas industry reforms; power and renewable energy; education and health reforms, among others.