All is not yet set for the Ibadan-Lagos rail line to begin full operation as Moniya axis of the tracks are yet to be completely fixed and all stations along the line still under various stages of construction. This is as the free trips, to and fro Lagos, from Ibadan witnessed a low turnout of passengers.
The maiden trip which commenced on Monday had as low as two passengers from Ibadan and less than five from Lagos. Recall that the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had directed the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) to begin operation of free rides from October 30, 2019, to March 31, 2020.
But our correspondent who was part of the trip, on Tuesday, reports low turnout of passengers as only two passengers alongside him joined the trip, apart of more than 30 other people on board the train, which comprised of two soldiers guiding a Chinese engineer onboard, an armed police officer, Man O’ War members, staff of NRC and cleaners. The number of passengers increased Enroute Ibadan from Lagos as the train had less than 10 passengers – a substantial increase in the number from Ibadan.
On the other hand, the dual rail tracks have not been completely fixed as the train could not go to the supposed terminus, which actually has not been constructed, at Moniya, Ibadan. The passengers had to move to Ologuneru, some kilometres away, to join the train.
Also, none of the train stations were ready. From the supposed terminus at Moniya to Omi-Adio, Olodo, Abeokuta, Papalanto, Kajola and Agbado. They were all under construction.
Speaking to Nigerian Tribune before the train took off from Ologuneru, the District Manager, Western Operations of NRC, Engr Engelique Ikwuka said the corporation is aware that the rail tracks were not fully ready at Moniya, adding that the operations had to commence because of the minister’s directive.
“The track at Moniya is yet to get to Kilometre 125, and because we want to ensure we start operations today as directed by the honourable minister, we have to start and stop at Ologuneru. The other reason too is because we believe that Ologuneru is at the middle of town where passengers, when they disembark, it would be easy for them to get transportation to their various destinations. But by December 21, will be getting to Moniya,” she said.
She also attributed the poor turnout to the none arrival of the coaches the corporation ordered, which according to her, had been shipped already from China, adding that before the end of the year, the coaches would arrive, and assured that more passengers would come onboard.
One of the two passengers who joined the train from Ibadan to Lagos, on Tuesday, Mrs Victoria Oyaade expressed gratitude to the federal government for initiating the project which she described as a departure from her previous experience. However, she decried the slow pace of the train, which it took three hours to get to Iju, Lagos, stating that it would waste the productive time of people who had timely activities to partake in at their destinations.
In response to this, Engr Ikwuka assured that the speed will improve when full commercial activities commence, describing the current arrangement as a test run.
Our reporter also noticed that virtually all the roads connecting to and around the rail line had not been fully constructed. They were all littered with red mud and exposed the passengers to the haze of dust as they embarked and disembarked the train. Also, passengers stood the chance of getting injured as they disembarked. They had to jump onto heavy granites with sharp edges like claws, used to construct the tracks.
The time in transit could also increase as the heavy equipment used in construction could disrupt the movement of the train as experienced on Tuesday en route Ibadan from Lagos. The train had to stop for 30 minutes to allow the heavy equipment to leave the track before the journey could resume. This increased the time in transit to three hours thirty minutes having departed by 4 pm and arrived at 7:30 pm.
However, the second passenger on the trip from Ibadan, Mrs Tinuola Lomowa, described the trip as convenient, adding that the in-trip service surpassed her expectation. “It is faster than the old trains I used to join. Then it was up to five hours but this is only three hours. The environment is safe and the service is good”, she said.