Commercial activities may begin on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge train this November, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has said.
Amaechi spoke on Monday, when he and the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemi Saraki, led other stakeholders on tour of the project.
He said the Federal Government would also begin a free trial train service between Lagos and Ibadan for commuters.
”Our ambition is that by November we should begin trial of train services between Lagos and Ibadan for free,” the minister said.
He, however, admitted that the pace of the project had been slow, adding that there was the need for the contractor to increase the pace of the project.
Amaechi said: ”They (contractor) need to increase their speed. They reduce their speed within the period that the government dissolved the last cabinet.
“Now that we are back, my colleague, the minister of state, and I resolved to push back the pressure to ensure they stick to the completion timelines.”
The minister disclosed that the double lane speed tracks had been laid up to kilometre 155, adding that where the project was recording challenge now was the completion of the stations, which according to him was impeded because the cabinet was not in place.
The tracks are no longer the problem, the problem now, is how to get them to finish the stations on time,” he said.
Amaechi disclosed that the contractor, CCECC, had promised to complete all the minor stations in three months, but six months after, they had yet to do so.
The minister added that he would continue to put pressure on the contractor to ensure that all the minor stations were completed in due course.
“We know that by January next year, they are going to finish both the minor and major stations so that we can move on,” Amaechi said.
Speaking on the Railway University and the manufacturing factory projects, Amaechi said while the Ministry of Transportation had secured a date for the factory’s ground breaking ceremony from the Vice President, it was waiting for the President to return to the country to give a date for the ground breaking ceremony for the university project.
He also said the government was waiting on the Chinese government and the China EximBank for the loan for the Ibadan-Kano standard gauge line.
The minister said the Federal Government was ready with its own counterpart funding, but would require the ChinaExim Bank to grant the facility for the project to begin.
Saraki expressed happiness that the Ministry of Transportation was delivering on the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari to make the train the backbone of the nation’s economy.
She said once the speed train fully come on stream, it would be able to unlock the huge potential of the sector to create jobs for teeming Nigerian youths.
Saraki, who supervises the maritime sector of the transportation ministry, said she was determined to work with other stakeholders to unlock the potential and opportunities of the maritime sector.