The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Monday, said the government will not further increase ticket prices on the Abuja-Kaduna rail route, in order to accommodate the poor.
The Minister, who made the comment during an interview on Sunrise Daily, noted he is aware of calls to increase the ticket prices, to ensure the railway makes enough profit to pay back the loans incurred in its construction and become sustainable.
But Amaechi said railways don’t make profits (from passenger ticket prices) across the world because they are usually subsidised.
“If we increase the cost of the tickets, what about the poor man that wants to move from Abuja to Kaduna? What about the poor man who works in Abuja and lives in Kaduna to save the cost of accommodation,” he said.
“So, usually, all over the world, you subsidise railway, so that the poor can have an easy means for transportation so that you improve your economy. Don’t forget, the railway is built not for passenger transportation, it is built as a means to grow the economy of a country.
“The economy will pay for it. Take the numbers of businesses that you grow across that line, take the numbers of companies you’ve established, take the taxes they pay to you.”
Solving Ticket Racketeering
Meanwhile, to solve the problem of ticket racketeering on the Abuja-Kaduna rail route, the Minister said the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) is set to roll out new locomotives and coaches.
He explained that the number of coaches and locomotives earlier deployed to the route was for 300 passengers daily.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, appeared on Sunrise Daily on Monday, February 3, 2020.
“Traffic count as at the time we deployed those coaches was 300. So, every day you move 300 passengers,” he said. “And suddenly there is a spike. You have 3,700 passengers per day with the same number of locomotives and coaches for 300 people, so what do you do?
“Don’t forget that the coaches and locomotives are not things you just go to the shop and buy. No, you have to manufacture, you have to fabricate. It took us nearly two years to fabricate the new coaches and locomotives that are just arriving now.”
Lagos-Ibadan Route Delay
On the Lagos-Ibadan railway, the Minister declined to give a deadline for the route’s completion.
“We agreed I should not talk about deadlines anymore,” he said, referring to the Chinese contractors in charge of the project, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
“What they told us the first time was April 2020. But they ran into problems. Their goods were yet to be cleared from the seaport. But the Director of Nigeria Ports Authority helped get their goods to berth.
“Now they are clearing. Because of that delay in clearing the cargoes they need to build stations, do the signalling and communications – they’ve completed tracks. I used the tracks to Ibadan and back. But that’s not what the railway is. You have to deal with signalling, terminals and all that. Now that all that has been discharged from the seaports, we hope that they will complete it according to the time they gave me – I won’t tell anybody the time; I will keep it to myself.
“There is an improvement, now, in the pace of work. They’ve cleared the items they need to complete the stations and signalling. The pace of work has improved. Manpower has also increased.”