By Taiwo Okanlawon
Nigerians have commended the Federal Government for the impressive extent of work achieved on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project from Iju in Lagos to Ibadan, Oyo state where the 157-kilometer project ends.
The commuters who enjoyed the free train ride between Lagos and Ibadan on the new standard gauge that kicked off on Monday made the commendation after boarding the train.
Though the project is yet to be completed, the government commenced operations and declared the free ride after a test-run of the train on the Iju-Ibadan axis where rail tracks have been completed while finishing touches are being put on the stations.
The train departs Ibadan for Lagos at 9.00 a.m each day and returns to Ibadan each day by 4.00 p.m, from Monday to Friday.
At Iju station, twenty-nine passengers boarded the two luxury coaches with forty-eight seats yesterday (Wednesday) while the train returned to Iju today (Thursday) with just twenty-two passengers from Ibadan.
The passengers who spoke to PM News correspondent on board described the ride from Iju in Lagos to Ologuneru in Ibadan as pleasurable, safe and less stressful, taking about three hours.
Others who spoke to PM News include officials of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), in Lagos and Ibadan respectively. While some people who were at the Iju station came to see the level of works on the project.
The traffic officer of the Nigeria Railway Corporation, western district, said the turn out is improving gradually and the Corporation is optimistic that more passengers would turn up before the week runs out, adding that because of the limited space, it will be on basis of first-come-first-served.
The Railway District Manager for Western Operations in Ibadan, Engr. Angelique Nkuka, said the kick-off of the train has proved many who were skeptical about the visibility of the project wrong.
In her words, “I’m happy to see this project coming to this level, that we are doing a trial on it. I remembered when we just started, many people were skeptical about whether this project will be completed and I’m happy we at this level now. So, that has gone to prove that the government has delivered what they promised and I am happy I’m part of it.”
One of the passengers on the train, Engr. Adesina Okeniyi while heading to Ibadan hailed the Federal Government over the initiative, urging them to make it a continuous project while praying for a good culture of maintenance on the users’ side.
He said, “It is a good initiative and nice development. I believe if we are going at this pace, we will get to that destination which we all wanted, taking the country to another level and we are praying for the continuity and a good culture of maintenance. We don’t want a situation whereby after a particular tenure, a new government will discontinue a very exotic project like this.”
Another passenger, Lemboye Abiola Moshood said, “I commend the present administration for this project because today I just decided to go and come back with the train to see what the government is doing and I thank them for a well-done job. The train is moving smoothly and no traffic congestion, I am happy to be on board.”
An elderly passenger, Comrade Joseph Zechariah who was also on board heading to Ibadan lauded the achievement and said the government has restored his lost hope about Nigeria.
He said, “We thank God for Nigeria, to see this kind of project after twenty years of democracy in Nigeria. We have lost hope that this kind of progress can come into existence now. I also thank God that this is happening in my lifetime, it is a very good thing for the whole country and I knew that as time goes on, there will be an improvement when the train starts work in full force.”
“This is my first time of entering a train because that former one was too rowdy so I do not bother myself,” he added.
Another passenger, Adeyemo Oseni who also lauded the initiative urged the people and officials to maintain the trains and the facilities, adding that the project will give room for people working in Lagos to live outside Lagos without the stress of getting to work if the project is maintained.
In his words, “The experience is good and the initiative is highly welcome, the only thing I pray for is the maintenance culture. We have a series of experiences and the experience is that once the thing is not maintained, we go back to the normal way but once it can be maintained at least this is a welcome development as regards the transportation system in Nigeria. If it can be maintained, people can be working as far as another state and they will leave anytime and get to their destination but when it is not maintained, there is no way you can get to your destination on time. I really appreciate what the government did on this one.”
Oseni further called on the government to make available more coaches for people as the ones on the ground cannot be enough when the train starts work fully.
He said, “Another challenge is that if we don’t have many coaches and the population is much, definitely there will be gridlock and what they designed the train for will not be achieved. Look at what they have in abroad, you are sure that after one train, maybe after five minutes, you are sure of getting another one to your destination. I am sure when they start, they will see more customers and they should think ahead to know the number of coaches we need.”
A resident at Ifako, Reverend G.A Adekunle who was the station to see the activities of the train said he was thrilled with what he saw despite the fact that there still finishing touches that needed to be done.
According to him, “It is good news that there is a train going from Iju straight to Ibadan. I remembered the good old days, the last time I traveled to Ibadan as a student, I traveled by train in 1973, and it was a very interesting journey. People prefer to travel by train because it’s safer, it is more comfortable and it is relatively cheaper.”
“I stay at Ifako and I just decided to come and see how the thing will look like and I hope I will have the opportunity to travel in it before Christmas and see how it will be. And this place doesn’t look like an ideal station and one of the officials told me that the real station is going to be at Agege and you know they are still working on it.”
Adekunle further urged the Federal Government to produce more coaches because the ones on the ground cannot convey enough people.
He stated, “I also observed that there are two coaches on the ground, I think before Christmas they should make it to about five coaches because these can carry few people and I’m sure people will be more happy seeing this working properly and more than that we need wagons that will be moving crude oils and other heavy-duty goods to the north instead of going by roads.”
“I congratulate the Federal Government for this initiative and I hope we are going to make it the best,” he added.
The project – a 156- kilometre Lagos-Ibadan fast rail with extension to Nigeria’s premier port in Apapa, is a three-year venture with the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) as the contractor.
The standard gauge express track is designed to have 10 ultra-modern train stations, all of which have park and ride facilities. While four of these are in Lagos corridor (Apapa, Ebute-Metta, Agege, Agbado), three are in Ogun State (Kajola, Papalanto, Abeokuta), and the remaining are in Oyo State (Olodo, Omi-Adio and Ibadan).
The speed train line is to have 10 ultra-modern railway stations with four in Lagos (Apapa, Lagos, Agege and Agbado), three in Ogun (Kajola, Papalanto and Abeokuta), and three in Oyo (Olodo, Omi Adio, and Ibadan). As part of the package is also four extra-large bridges, 11 large bridges, four medium bridges two steel bridges, 10 frame bridges, 207 culverts, 40 railway crossing-no level crossing, and 31 pedestrian overpasses.