By Kazeem Akande/Uchediunor Augusta/Taiye Elebiyo-Edeni
Delta, April 11, 2019
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi on Thursday said that the Warri-Itakpe Standard Gauge line was ready for passenger, commercial and freight services.
Amaechi disclosed this while supervising the nearly completed standard guage rail project across the three states involved on Thursday.
The train corridors involved Itakpe in Kogi, Aghenebode in Edo and Agbhor in Delta with 12 railway stations along the corridors.
Amaechi, while commenting on the level of work done said that the Itakpe to Abuja axis would cost the government $3 billion.
“The train is now available for commercial activities and we believe the passengers and companies on iron ore will patronise the services.
“We have 12 stations from Itakpe to Warri where work is ongoing but mostly all of them are nearly completed for easy access to the train services in the 316 km journey.
“The Itakpe-Abuja corridor will cost the Federal Government three billion dollars with Seaport in Warri.
“The government has said it has the plan to connect the whole country by train, so we are doing it gradually; very soon all the states will be connected,” the minister said.
NAN reports that the railway stations include, Ujevwu, Agbhor, Itakpe, Eganyi, Adogo, Ajaokuta, Itogbo Aghenebode, Ehkehen, Igbanke Abraka, and Okpara involving the three states.
NAN also reports that free passenger train operations commenced in Nov. 26, 2018, with the train running four times per week in the same corridor with over 2,501 passengers so far transported in 49 trips.
Mr Amaechi, also said that the Federal Government was going to beef up security at the Itakpe-Warri rail line.
He gave the assurance during the inspection tour of the rail project at Warri.
He observed that two security personnel deployed on the train service were not adequate, noting that not less than 10 security personnel should be on the train.
“Two security personnel are not good enough. At least there should be not less than 10 armed security personnel on the train to protect the passengers.
“I will meet the Inspector General of Police to deploy more security personnel on the route and all the needed amenities will also be provided,” he said.
He, however, said that commercial activities should commence with immediate effect by putting a stop to free train ride, which had lasted for six months.
Meanwhile, Mr Fidet Okhiria, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has said that the Corporation is set to officially inaugurate the Itakpe-Warri rail line in September as it commences full commercial activities.
He disclosed this in an interview with NAN in Warri on Thursday.
He confirmed that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Amaechi has directed that commercial activities should commence immediately after six months of free ride and test running of the service.
He, however, explained that even though the stations were not fully completed, hub stations will be created with mobile houses to commence operation.
The managing director said that the route operates four times a week, saying that by weekend a new train schedule will be drawn and price fixed to commence full operation on Monday.
“What we have done is to create hub stations in a very close vicinity to passengers, so that once we finish those hub stations, there will be mobile portable houses to sell tickets and carry out our operations.
“We have about six portable houses on different locations on the route.
“We have about 12 stations at various levels of completion, some are just at the roofing stages; the offices and clinics are ready.
“We will start the commercial activities at a variable cost as part of the test run and trial run; it is better passengers get used to the cost before they think train services are free.
“We want people to know that it is better to travel by rail because it is safer and quicker.
”We are trying to arrange vehicles at Itakpe to transport passengers to Abuja,” he said.
The managing director said that the marketing department has started reaching out to companies for the movement of cargoes on the route.
Okhiria, however, said that NRC was determined to complete Ibadan-Kano and Itakpe-Lokoja in 2019 once the budgetary allocation was released.