WorldStage Newsonline– The Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, says the company’s management has come up with a railway access framework to encourage public-private partnerships (PPPs).
Okhiria said this during a press briefing held on Wednesday at the NRC headquarters in Ebute Metta, Lagos.
He said that putting in place an access framework for the railway would allow third parties to use the track.
Okhiria said the framework would increase private sector participation and also increase the use of trackers.
He said the railway access framework will also improve interstate business and passengers will pay a lower amount for transporting goods from one point to another.
“We submitted the Rail Access Framework to the NRC Board of Directors at our last meeting and we expect the framework to be approved at the next Board meeting.
“We have put together a team to work with the Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) to enable them to operate successfully.
“LAMATA had just received wagons for the red line and I hope they will start operating before the first quarter of 2023,” Okhiria said.
He said efforts were being made by the federal government to adequately secure train passengers across the country as well as address other industry issues.
Okhiria said the incident on March 28, 2022 impacted not just the Abuja-Kaduna route but all rail services nationwide as efforts were made to secure the release of the remaining passengers.
He said Nigerians’ confidence in the train as the safest means of transport was gradually being restored.
The NRC boss said the price of diesel had skyrocketed and being a service provider for the benefit of Nigerians, the company could not just raise its tariffs.
According to him, the company needs to reduce the number of trips on Lagos-Ibadan to four and Itakpe-Warri to two in order to provide train services to Nigerians.
He said the NRC had lost N531 million due to inactivity on the Abuja-Kaduna road between March and August 2022.
Okhiria said the company intends to increase the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge run while it will increase the Lagos-Ibadan train to 10 runs; five to go and five to go.
“We were already doing 10 trips a day on the Abuja-Kaduna and we thought that now it would have increased to 12, six round trips; so that people can properly plan their journey using the train.
“Unfortunately, due to the inactivity of the Abuja-Kaduna train caused by the latest terrorist attack, we recorded a shortfall of N531 million on the Abuja-Kaduna route from March to August 2022.
“The shortfall comes from the expected revenue, following the disruption caused by the attack on the train.
“As we try to solve this problem and people gain confidence, we have this astronomical challenge in the cost of diesel from N300 plus to over N1000 per litre,” he said.
According to him, because of this, the Lagos-Ibadan route has dropped to two due to the cost of diesel. What we earn cannot pay for diesel.
“We have people providing security due to the situation everywhere. We need to engage separate security.
“We have to pay them whether the train is running or not.
“We have to pay lighting bills and still have to buy diesel for the generators serving the stations, among other things despite the inactivity along the Abuja-Kaduna railway line and the decline in Lagos-Ibadan rail services.
“So you can see that what we earn is also eroded by operational costs. Even amidst the challenges, we also receive funds from the NRC properties management,” Okhiria said.
While explaining the movement of cargo from the ports via standard gauge rail, the Managing Director said that the movement of cargo with the Lagos-Ibadan train will commence in November 2022.
He said NRC management had met with some maritime stakeholders, including APM Terminals and ENL Consortium, to ensure cargo runs at standard gauge from both terminals to Papalanto and Abeokuta before November.
The NRC boss said they were also working hard to ensure access roads and freight yards were properly set up so equipment for rolling stock was provided.
He noted that the NRC would meet with some people offering to use the warehouses and freight yards and was optimistic that before November they would start transporting goods on the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail.