By Adelola Amihere
Four months after commercial services on the Abuja-Kaduna train route were suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, operations is set to resume on Wednesday, 29th July.
This is just as President Muhammadu Buhari also approved a hike in fares from N 1500 to N3,000 for Economy class, N2500 to N5,000 for Business class and N6000 for the VIP coaches.
Speaking to journalists during a test run of the newly delivered Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) consisting of two locomotives and 8 coaches, the Minister of Transportation, Hon Chibuike Amaechi explained that the hike in fares was to ensure that physical distancing is maintained as well as cover the running cost of the operations.
He said “In a month, we get about N120 million and if we run like this, we will realise about N60million. It then means that we need another N60 million to complement the running cost. What the president did to approve the new fare was to say, once you can get your running cost, it is okay”.
Responding to questions on the affordability of the new fare for Nigerians, the Minister opined that people using the train are not poor and can afford the fares, adding that a lot of people are of the opinion that the fares is nothing compared to the risk of kidnappers on the road.
While admitting that there was pressure on them to resume operation before the Sallah celebrations, he disclosed that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) is increasing operations from the initial 8 operation service on both routes pre Covid-19 to 14 commercial operations daily.
Providing an update on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, Amaechi stated that the project is moving at a slow pace now due to the COVID-19 pandemic they reduced the number of workers from 1000 to 10 workers, and because of this the big stations are not yet completed.
He said: “The two things we can do is to either run skeletal services and be running two services, one going and one coming that means they will be using the double tracks but they won’t be using the stations and if they have to use the stations nobody should complain that they are uncompleted stations but we will only do that if there is heavy pressure on traffic, if not they may have to wait till the stations are ready.
“We had targeted May and they were working towards May but unfortunately Covid-19 came, so we told them to complete the small stations cause that one is easy 10 persons can complete that station but the biggest station in Ebutte Metta they will need about 1000 workers on site and we don’t want to risk that because of spread of the virus.”
The Minister also used the opportunity to debunk a tweet attributed to him saying that the Kaduna to Kano rail segment of the Ibadan-Kano project had commenced.
“I never tweeted anything I don’t have any Facebook or Twitter account the only social account I have is WhatsApp. Have you ever seen me tweet before? I didn’t say you should disregard any information from my account because I have staffs that may be doing such”, he stated.