Nigeria railway
Nigeria railway

Nigerians, young and old, stood awestruck, waving and blowing kisses at a moving train on a standard gauge rail line.

The China-assisted Lagos-Ibadan railway project had its test-run on Friday with a train plying the route between Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, and Abeokuta, capital of the Ogun state in southwest.

“This is my first time of seeing a train on a standard gauge rail network,” said Bisi Onifade, a nursing mother living in the neighborhood where the train berthed in Iju, a suburb of Lagos. “What I’ve ever seen is the old train on the narrow gauge system that passed through our backyard.”

“This new one looks different and meets the eye well,” the 40-year-old petty trader told Xinhua.

Many locals took pictures and videos with their phones as the train approached its destination in Abeokuta, Nigeria’s industrial hub.

“I have never entered a train. I never thought of entering one,” said Onifade, who sometimes saw old trains passing through her neighborhood. “I am very attracted to this new one. I am glad my two-year-old son lives in the era of this new means of transportation and can experience it.”

The 156 km Lagos-Ibadan rail line, in southwest Nigeria, is part of the country’s first Standard Gauge Railway Modernization Project (SGRMP), an initiative which aims at replacing the old system with the wider standard gauge system that allows high-speed train operations.

It is the second segment of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge project, handled by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

The construction project is segmented into six, with counterpart funding from the Export-Import Bank of China and the Nigerian government.

A ground-breaking ceremony for the project took place on March 7, 2017.

From Lagos to Ibadan, both very populous cities, there is usually heavy passenger and cargo traffic. Locals believe the new inter-city train will help reduce ease traffic flow and help improve the economy of the country.

Hundreds of Nigerians enjoyed a jolly ride on the train, consisting of four coaches and two locomotives, from Iju, Lagos, to Laderin, in Abeokuta, on Friday.

Notable passengers on the ride included the Nigerian transport minister Rotimi Amaechi, Ogun State governor Ibikunle Amosun, federal legislators, a tribal king, local traditional chiefs, and senior security officers.

Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, a tribal king in Ogun, described his experience as “a memorable one.”

He referred to the new railway project as one of “tremendous benefit to our people.”

“It will employ many people and it will promote the economy of this country,” he said.

The ongoing rail project is expected to create over 11,000 new jobs throughout the construction of the second segment, according to local officials.

It is expected to open up new business opportunities to locals living along the rail corridor.

On Saturday, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, operators of the rail transport, started an official three-month test-run from Abeokuta to Lagos on the new standard gauge railway.

Every day for the next three months, three free trips would be organized for tourists and people working or living in the two cities.

When fully operational, the inter-state rail project will cut down travel time between Lagos and Abeokuta to 29 minutes.

It will provide for easier movement of goods and services, improve the ease of doing business, promote trade, industries, increase safety, and speed up development in the area, said Amosun, the governor of Ogun State.

When fully completed, the standard gauge railway modernization project will link Lagos and Kano, the hub of economic activities in the northwest region of the country.

Transport minister Amaechi told Xinhua that the project is one of the priority projects of the Nigerian government and that Nigeria is “grateful to the president and government of China.”
We are also grateful to the president of Nigeria for accepting that we should go ahead with the construction,” he said. Enditem

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