The Abuja-Kaduna rail line is fast becoming a reality as the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, last Thursday undertook a tour of the facility riding in one of the modern locomotives.

The tour which included a train ride from the Idu station to Bwari, saw the minister interacting with journalists and sharing thoughts on the essence of having an integrated transport system that would make movement of people and goods a pleasure in Abuja, the capital city of Africa’s largest economy.

Amaechi revealed that the essence of the tour was to enable government access the state of readiness of the project expected to come on stream next month.

“What we are doing is to find out whether we are ready for commercial activities and I think we are. When we came, they (contractors) were not working because there was no payment.

We are gradually beginning to pay them so that they can complete this project. “It was initially an $800 million project, but our cultural background affects construction in Nigeria.

To stop animal crossing and human activities on the rail track, there will be fencing from Abuja to Kaduna. That is an extra $100 million dollars in addition to other extra works.

If it is not for our culture of allowing animals to graze and wander in different locations we would not have incurred the cost of having to fence the rail,” he said.

Details of project

The Abuja-Kaduna rail project is one of the first standard gauge railway modernisation projects (SGRMP) undertaken in Nigeria.

The standard gauge line connects the federal capital city of Abuja with Kaduna, the political capital of the defunct Northern Region.

The construction of the rail line started in February 2011 and was completed in December 2014. It is being undertaken by the China Civil and Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), which is also constructing other major rail projects on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Inside Abuja learnt that the project employed approximately 4,000 people and is expected to create more than 5,000 additional jobs when it commences operation.

It promises to make movement of goods and people between the two cities faster and more efficient. It is a 186km line with standard gauge railway tracks and nine stations and catering for both passenger and cargo trains.

The passenger trains on the line can operate at a speed between 200km/h and 250km/h. The travel time between Abuja and Kaduna will be reduced to one hour and each passenger train can carry up to 5,000 commuters.

The cargo trains, carrying 800t of goods, will take one and half hours to travel between the two cities. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N1.1 billion ($6.6m) in October 2014, for the procurement of two locomotives for the Abuja- Kaduna standard-gauge rail lines.

Construction works

The rail project was finalised in 2009. The contract for building the new line was awarded in December 2010. It is estimated to cost $874 million. China’s EXIM bank provided $500 million as a concessionary loan for the project while the remainder was provided by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Track laying for the single standard gauge line was officially launched in July 2013. The rail line construction was 68 per cent complete by July 2013 with the earthwork and hydraulic structures for the project 92 per cent and 87 per cent complete, respectively.

Approximately 85 per cent of the construction was finished by October 2014 and final works were concluded by early December. The rail line involved the construction of 30 railway bridges, including five box bridges.

The bridges are being built using precast T-beams. By mid-2013, 187 out of the total 348 precast T-beams were produced and 52 of these were successfully installed. Each T-beam is 2.5m in height and 120 tons in weight.

Demolition and compensation

Owing to the length of the rail line, transversing several communities, many buildings had to give way while a number of bridges had to be built across locations where the rail line cut through existing roads.

In the process, the contractors incurred huge responsibilities in terms of monetary compensations. For instance, in Byazhin, a community in Kubwa District of Bwari Area Council, a number of private estates, residential buildings and even hospitals fell on the rail track and were either instantly demolished or quit notices served on their owners to warn them of the advancing bulldozers. Inside Abuja learnt that in many of these demolitions, compensation was not paid hence creating a negative impression of the project in the minds of the populace.

However, respite seems to have come the way of St. Vincent De Paul Hospital, Byazhin, three years after they were forced to vacate some of their buildings without compensation.

The hospital which was founded by some Roman Catholic missionaries led by Rev. Sister Geraldine Henry, is managed by Reverend Sisters of The Daughters of Charity congregation.

It has been providing community health services to people of the community at subsidised rate and many of its clients have been worried about the fate of the hospital with its displacement by the railway project.

Inside Abuja learnt that three years ago, government officials ordered the management of the hospital to relocate the healthcare facility to a different site, with the promise of providing a compensation of N362 million and alternative land for it.

Unfortunately this remained a promise that was almost broken until last Thursday when Amaechi visited the hospital site in the course of inspecting the rail project.

An official of the hospital told the minister and his entourage that since the Federal Government was yet to fulfil its compensation promises, the Sisters have not been able to fully comply with the quit notice but have relocated some of their operations to a nearby makeshift structure.

After a lengthy interaction with the management of the hospital, the minister promised to expedite action on the payment of full compensation to the hospital so as to ensure that they moved to a new site away from the rail line. Amaechi, who observed that the payment of compensation on properties to be demolished has been the major impediment to the commencement of operations on the Abuja-Kaduna railway, promised that a compensation package of N362 million will be paid to the hospital before the end of March.

He also pledged that the title to the land they have been relocated to would be quickly made available to the management of the hospital, adding that he was going to personally request the Minister of Federal Capital Territory to grant the necessary approvals.

In addition, the minister persuaded the rail construction firm to donate a 200KVA generator to the hospital as well as take up the responsibility for the construction of some befitting structures for the hospital as part of their corporate social responsibility.

He announced that baring any further issues, the rail line will be opened for operation next month and then will be officially commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari by May this year.

Expected outcomes

When the trains actually get running, it will certainly make a difference. It means that a journey from Abuja to Kaduna which takes about two hours by road today might just become a 30 minutes dash while the journey from Kubwa, a satellite town to the main city of Abuja, might be shortened to about 15 minutes from its present 40 minutes.

Abuja residents sincerely hope that these trains expected to arrive soon will not go the way of their predecessors.

They hope that they will be maintained and refurbished regularly to keep them in the best of shapes where our ministers and even the president would take a ride in them.

For too long, the government has neglected the rail transport in spite of its potential to move more population and heavy goods with relative ease and speed.

Source: New Telegraph

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