The Minister for Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, has disclosed that the Abuja-Kaduna train services will resume operations by next week, Wednesday, July 29, 2020 amid tight precautionary measures in line with the PTF COVID-19 guidelines.
The Minister disclosed this on Saturday, during an inspection and test run of the 10 newly acquired coaches and 2 locomotives deployed on the Abuja–Kaduna rail corridor.
Amaechi further revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the increase in train fare due to reduction in the number of passengers the train will be conveying, which is half its capacity in order to give room for social distancing.
“In a month (pre-COVID-19), we get about N120 million, and if we run like this (half capacity), we will realize N60 million. It means that we need another N60 million to complete the running cost.
” It is, therefore for the above reason that the rates have been increased as follows: First class, N6,000, Business Class, N5,000 and Economy, N3,000 to enable Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) meet up at least with the running cost,” explained Amaechi.
When asked whether the fare isn’t too much for the poor to pay, the Minister said, “They can afford it and that was certainly cheaper than the ransom to be paid if kidnapped on Abuja-Kaduna road.”
The Minister also observed that when the Itakpe-Warri rail line becomes fully operational, it would be more lucrative than Abuja-Kaduna route. This the minister attribute to when the AKK (Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline) project commencement which will result in their pipes being transported from Warri seaport to Itakpe.
Speaking on why the Lagos-Ibadan railway is stalled, the Minister noted that it would have been commissioned in May, but was stalled for the fear of exposing the about 1000 workers needed to complete the project to COVID-19, adding that lack of fund is what is delaying the takeoff of the Ibadan-Kano railway project.
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who saw the Minister off to the rail station after a courtesy call while interacting with journalists said, the reopening of the railway could not have happened at a better time, attesting that COVID-19 is real, urge people to abide by all the safety protocols.
On the issue of the increased train fare, the governor noted that it is long overdue, and wished it is higher, to forestall the activities of middlemen involved in ticket racketeering.
He called on the Ministry and NRC to consider e-ticketing as a measure of addressing ticket racketeering at the train stations.
The Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, on his part said, the arrival of the Diesel Multiple Units (DMU’s) coaches, the corporation will increase the frequency of trips on the Abuja-Kaduna line from eight (to and fro) trips to 14 per day.
The Manager, Abuja–Kaduna Rail Service, Paschal Nnorli, stated that prior to reopening, there will be fumigation of all rolling stocks and offices, also a policy of no mask no entry will be enforced at all stations.
He further disclosed that more DMU’s are still being expected on the route to manage the high passenger traffic.
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