The Oasis Reporters
September 14, 2017
Two new speed trains acquired for the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge train service shall be deployed in October by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) if technical hitches do not stand in the way.
The locomotives, which arrived Lagos July 25, 2017 arrived Idu, Abuja on August 13, 2017. The off-loading was completed on August 14, 2017.
The new locomotives are built to travel up to 150km per hour. Once deployed the trains will cut travel time from Abuja-Kaduna from about 2:45 minutes to about 1:30 minutes. Also, the number of daily train services will increase from the present four.
The Chinese construction and Engineering company (CCECC), that handled the project will hand over the new locomotives to the NRC management and training would commence immediately, followed by test run before commercial deployment.
Already, the CCECC has commenced technical evaluation of the two new locomotives before handing them over to the NRC.
The newly acquired locomotives are those originally billed to be used on the service. The current locomotive in use is a temporary one which was also used during the construction.
Pascal A. Nnorli, the NRC Liaison Officer in Abuja, said “By this week, the locomotives should be fully taken over from the Chinese. Once the NRC takes full possession of the two locomotives, the training of Nigerians who will operate them will commence. The training will be done by technical staff of the CCECC just like they did before the train service was launched.”
Currently, the NRC has 488 trained staff working on the Abuja-Kaduna rail corridor compared to CCECC’s 21 technical staff. The NRC also maintains the rail facilities with little technical support from CCECC, especially in track maintenance having acquired the tamping, ballast profiling and ballast distribution machines.
According to Nnorli, “The training should last for about two weeks. After the two weeks training, the locomotives will be test run for about a week before they will be launched for commercial operations. All these processes shouldn’t take more than a month, all things been equal,” he stated.
He explained further that all these steps were needed for safety reasons.
“Once we deploy the new locomotives, we can increase our speed and cut short our travel time from Abuja to Kaduna,” he said.
This will be useful to Kaduna residents who work in Abuja to commute to and from the office daily, thereby decongesting the Federal Capital Territory that is facing a lot of housing infrastructure deficits.
Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) is the state-owned enterprise with exclusive rights to operate railways in Nigeria.
It commenced in 1898, when the first railroad in Nigeria was constructed by the British colonial government. On October 3, 1912 the Lagos Government Railway and the Baro-Kano Railway were amalgamated, starting nationwide rail service under the name Government Department of Railways.
With the passing of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act of 1955, the company gained its current name as well as the exclusive legal right to construct and operate rail service in Nigeria.
The rail network reached its maximum extent shortly after Nigerian independence, in 1964. Shortly after that, the NRC entered a long period of decline, inept management, and eventually a complete lack of maintenance of rail and locomotive assets. In 1988, NRC declared bankruptcy, and all rail traffic stopped for six months. After that, trains resumed on a skeletal basis and by 2002, passenger service was again discontinued altogether
In December 2012 regular, scheduled passenger service was restored on the Lagos to Kano line through the efforts of then President Goodluck Jonathan who also constructed the Abuja – Kaduna Standard Gauge line and launched it before leaving office. Hitherto, almost all the tracks in Nigeria were Narrow Gauge, making travel time long and slow.