…Minister decries trading activities along the rail tracks
Against his earlier promise in July that skeletal services will resume on the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge,Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, says it is no longer feasible because of non completion of some major rail station along the corridor.
Also speaking the Managing Director,Fidelis Okhiria attributed the delay in commencement of skeletal services which the corporation had said will start in September on non on going discussions on some modalities with the construction company.
The duo spoke in Ibadan Wednesday at end of the Ministers monthly routine inspection.
The minister started the inspection tour from Ebute-Metta in Lagos, in company of other management staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
Still on the cause of delay,he explained that the track laying from Ebute-Meta in Lagos to Ibadan in Oyo State, had been completed, while the 10 stations along the line were at various levels of completion.
Amaechi said that there had been some improvements and progress in the construction of railways stations along the line.
He said that in some of the 10 stations along the line, the contractor, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), had finished doors, windows, roofing, flooring, ceiling and lighting.
“Olodo (Station) is just near the completion. At Kajola, what is outstanding is just painting. There are changes at Ebute-Meta. There was improvement in Kajola, Olodo, and Ebute-Meta, though, not to the extend I expect that it should be.
“They have given us the target; by the end of September, three stations will be ready.
“By the end of October, all the minor stations will be ready, that is six stations. By the end of December, every station will be ready.
“The only one station they (CCECC) are afraid of is Apapa (Station), because they started very late, but I insisted that Apapa should be completed at the same time as the rest,” he said.
The minister said he had assured the contractor of provision of a task force to help the speedy completion of Apapa Station, adding that he would come to assess the work by the end of September.
He expressed belief that everything would be put in place before the end of December for movement to passengers and goods.
“Timeline has not changed. Do they meet my target? The answer is No. My target was before we come on September 15 for inspection, they should have finished all the minor stations,” he added.
According to him, the excuse given by the contractor was that they didn’t have enough engineers to supervise because of COVID-19 pandemic.
“The same engineers supervising Agbado supervise Agege, that is slowing them down. For me, that is not an excuse.
“I want this work done quickly, because I want to move out of this place.
“Their position is that by next week more engineers will be coming; we expect them to isolate for seven days and work will commence. Once, work commences, they will be faster,” the minister added.
On the Oshodi train accident on Monday, Amaechi, described loss of two lives in the incident as unfortunate, urging motorists to be careful on the rail tracks.
He decried trading activities on the rail tracks, saying that there must be enforcement of law.
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The minister said that government would fence the Lagos corridor to prevent people from trading and playing on the rail tracks.
On allegation of train attack on Abuja-Kaduna Standard Guage, Amaechi said that the news was not true.
On what next after the project, the minister said that apart from Ibadan to Kano rail line, the ministry had sent to the cabinet for approval of the award of two railway contracts.
According the him, the contracts are Port Harcourt – Onne -Maiduguri; Kano-Maradi Railway and Lagos to Calabar.
On the inauguration of Itakpe-Warri Railway, the minister said that President Muhammadu Buhari was ready.
Also, Mr Fidet Okhiria, the Managing Director of NRC, said that the corporation was still discussing with the contractor on when to commence skeletal operations on the Lagos-Ibadan Rail line.
Okhiria said that the rolling stocks had been delivered, but the corporation was discussing some modalities, including safety.
According to him, the NRC has not fixed any date for the skeletal commercial operation.