By Christel Odili
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has mandated the contractors handling the Lagos-Ibadan rail project to complete the Lagos – Abeokuta axis in two weeks.
Ameachi gave the mandate during the monthly inspection of the project, he sai that, the construction is well ahead of schedule and could be flagged off as it is, but it is better to put logistics in place to enhance delivery of the project.
According to him, “I may be pushing them a bit hard but, I want the project delivered.
“Though, we cannot say that the contractor, the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) is not trying but, for commercial purposes, they have to complete the section so that, passengers can board train to Abeokuta”.
”Getting to Abeokuta you will see that there’s an improvement but the problem they have now is the civil work between Agbado and Iju which is critical to me because I don’t think passengers will go to Agbado to join the train”.
“I believe that the closer we are to Lagos the better for the rail and that is why I had to tell them to tell me what they will do about this before the next two weeks, although there’s a huge improvement up to this points”.
“I want them to speed up the construction from Iju to Agbado since more passengers are expected from Iju than Agbado, it is logical to complete Ije-Agbado before flag off” Amaechi said.
He added that the project when completed, will decongest the Lagos sea ports. The Minister also dismissed the claim his frequent visit to the construction site was due to external pressure.
He said: “I am not under pressure from anybody. Part of the solution to Lagos seaport is an efficient rail line.
”You can argue that the narrow gauge is there but it is not efficient. The moment we fix this, those goods will be transferred to the rail and the logjam will disappear.
“So the pressure is more economic than political or people based. Once they finish Iju, I will push them to go to the seaport.
“Once that is done, there will be no more logjam and then businesses will grow which will give room to more employment.”
“Part of the solution to the congestion around Lagos sea port is an efficient rail line. You can argue that the narrow gauge is there but it is not efficient. But the moment you fix this then those goods will be transferred to the rail and then the logjam will disappear.
“The moment we do the section from Iju to the sea port, then most of those goods, especially the ones gong to Ibadan will be on the rail lines.”
Amaechi also stated that the government is interested in completing the project as soon as possible as it is a project that has direct impact on the citizens, and therefore puts government under a bit of pressure to ensure speedy completion.
“Of course, and it is also because of the speed for it takes you about 30 minutes by rail from Lagos to Ibadan as against over one hour by road. And this is subsidised.”
On the unavailability of equipment, he said:
“They argued that lack of equipment was responsible for the pace of work because the equipment are not on the shelf equipment that can just be picked and paid for. What is causing the delay on the Agbado to Iju axis is equipment related.
“The equipment have to be applied from overseas, we will have to wait for the processing and then ship it down and if we wait for those equipment, we might be finishing the job when the equipment will arrive.”
Speaking on the arrival of coaches, he said: “We are expecting 30 passenger coaches mixed with locomotive wagons, 300 wagons and two sets of DMU made up of ten coaches each and two motorcars will arrive Lagos before the construction work is completed.
A train car test-run was done from DK37 Kajola to DK75 Itori in Ogun which was about 38 km from Agbado to Abeokuta axis.
The Tabloid NG also gathered that the Nigeria Railway Corporation would move two coaches to Lagos from Delta state in preparation for the flag off of the newly constructed rail line.