President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday inaugurated the $1.46bn Abuja-Kaduna train service.
After series of postponements, the President finally signalled the commencement of the rail project.
The railway modernisation project commenced with the signing of the contract for the construction of the Abuja (Idu) to Kaduna (Rigasa) rail line in 2009.
Buhari said the Abuja-Kaduna train for passengers and freight was Nigeria’s first-ever standard gauge rail track to go into operation.
According to him, the project was conceived by a previous administration, started by the last government and was completed and inaugurated by the current government under his leadership.
He said, “It is on record that between 1963 and the early 1980s, Nigeria had a vibrant rail system, which conveyed agricultural produce, livestock and solid mineral resources to the Lagos and Port Harcourt seaports 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, which today’s occasion symbolises.”
The President said the standard gauge train service would be safe, fast and reliable, adding that it would provide the much needed alternative transport link between the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna State.
Buhari stated that state capitals and commercial centres would be linked by rail, as he expressed the hope of inaugurating more rail lines as outlined in his administration’s transport policy.
He said, “In this regard, I wish to assure Nigerians that most state capitals and major commercial and production centres will be linked with the railway system as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of Nigerians, and promoting social and regional integration.
“Furthermore, I wish to also reassure Nigerians that due attention will be placed on pursuing the 25-year Strategic Railway Master Plan, which is aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country.
“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.”
After inaugurating the facility at the Idu Station, the President took a train ride from there to the next station in Kubwa, all in the FCT.
The $1.46bn project, which is Nigeria’s first high speed rail system, was built by the CCECC and is made up of a 186.5km standard gauge double track from Abuja to Kaduna. It has nine stations and the train, according to the CCECC, can travel as fast as 150km/hour.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said trial runs were conducted on the facility for over one month, adding that over 500 passengers were transported free of charge daily during the period.
He said, “The contract for the railway was awarded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, partially executed by former President Goodluck Jonathan and completed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The locomotive and coaches arrived in May, and between June and July, we commenced the trial run. We conveyed over 500 passengers per trip, twice daily for a month and two weeks. And in all, it was done free of charge.
“Through this system, people can come from Kaduna to work in Abuja, agricultural produce are conveyed at cheaper rates, and I hope that heavy cargo will soon be conveyed by rail.”