In our last edition, we established that the roads to Nigerian ports would fare better when we employ intermodalism for our transport system, let’s take a look at the rail system and the enormous benefits it could provide in transforming the Nigerian transportation industry.
Railway is by far the land transportation mode offering the highest capacity with a 23,000 tons fully loaded coal unit train being the heaviest load ever carried. This underscores the importance of linking railways to the ports for any nation that hopes to get optimum productivity from its ports as the rail provides an opportunity for long distance haulage of freight.
Railway transport also occupies a significant role in the transport system of a country because the development of trade, industry and commerce largely depends on the development of railways, yet it remains the cheapest and safest mode of transport as the chances of accidents and breakdown of railways are minimum when compared to other modes of transport.
Railways are composed of a traced path on which wheeled vehicles are bound, however, recent technological developments have seen rail transportation also include monorails and maglev. They have an average level of physical constrains linked to the types of locomotives. A low gradient is required particularly for freight. Heavy industries are traditionally linked with rail transport systems, although containerization has improved the flexibility of rail transportation by linking it with road and maritime modes.
Railway transport is economical, quicker and best suited for carrying heavy and bulky goods over long distances. Another benefit of the rail transport is that trains have a small frontal area with respect to the load they are carrying, which reduces air resistance and energy usage, an advantage which has seen the rail transport emerge as a major form of public and commercial transport in many countries.
The minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi has revealed his desire to fix the Nigerian rail system and this is no doubt comforting as the effective management of the railway to convey goods and people would mean fewer vehicles would ply the roads and reduce the volume of traffic congestion which has become the norm in major cities especially port areas across the country such as the Oshodi- Apapa grueling traffic jam caused trucks and tankers which reached new heights last week.
Since Nigeria is now thinking about the railway system; definitely the coaches will be concessioned out in a PPP arrangement and would it be the business of freight forwarders to go into the management of those coaches to convey goods and people.
The emergence of an efficient rail system would decongest roads and reduce the number of trucks and tankers plying inter-state via the roads as fewer trucks and tankers would travel from the far North to the West to carry goods and fewer cases of accidents will be recorded.
Nigeria would not make progress without improved transportation system and the port sector cannot advance without a well-planned freight transportation system for which rail transportation is a key component. It is also very important to equip the rail mode of transportation in Nigeria with optimum services, security and safety which would ensure our trains and railways meet the global best standards.