The Federal Government has announced the resumption of the Abuja to Kaduna rail services on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. The resumption of the train services is going to coming with fare increases amid precautionary measures to curtail COVID-19.
The disclosure was made by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, during an inspection tour and test run of the 10 newly acquired coaches and 2 locomotives deployed on the Abuja to Kaduna rail corridor.
Amaechi also revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved an increase in train fares due to the fact that the train will now be conveying half its capacity in order to maintain social distancing.
According to the Transport Minister, “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.’’
When asked if this increase will not be too much of a burden for the poor to pay, Amaechi insisted that they can afford it, pointing out that it was certainly cheaper than the ransom to be paid if kidnapped on Abuja-Kaduna road.
On the Itapke to Warri rail line, he also revealed that the route will be more lucrative when fully operational, than the Abuja to Kaduna route because when the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline project starts, they will carry their pipes from Warri seaport to Itakpe.
He said that the fear of exposing the 1000 workers needed to complete the Lagos-Ibadan railway, to the coronavirus disease, stalled the project which was supposed to be completed in May 2020. He also said that lack of funds is delaying the take-off of the Ibadan-Kano railway line.
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who saw the Minister off to the rail station after a courtesy call, told journalists that the reopening of the railway could not have happened at a better time. He reminded them that COVID-19 is real, therefore people should abide by all the safety protocols.
On the issue of the increased train fare, the governor said he wished it would have been higher and called on the Ministry and NRC to consider e-ticketing as a measure of addressing ticket racketeering at the train stations.
On his part, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, said that with the arrival of these Diesel Multiple Units (DMU’s), the corporation will now increase the frequency of trips on the Abuja-Kaduna line from eight (to and fro) trips to 14 per day.
The Manager of the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Service, Pascal Nnorli disclosed that there will be fumigation of all rolling stocks and offices before the reopening of the station. He also said that the 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.
It can be recalled that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) suspended passenger train operations nationwide following the ban on interstate travel by the Federal Government on April 28, 2020, as part of the measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Some of the suspended train services include the flagship Abuja-Kaduna train service, Lagos-Kano express train on the old narrow gauge, Lagos-Ogun passenger services and some others.
Amaechi had earlier last month, said that the ministry was not in a hurry to resume train operations because of the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic. He insisted that all health and safety protocols must apply when train services resume.