The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) is perfecting arrangements to resume container haulage to Kano by December using the old Lagos to Kano narrow gauge line.
Sa’idu Alkali, minister of transportation, disclosed this during his recent visit to the Kajola Wagon Assembly Plant in Ogun, said the freight wagon haulage on the narrow gauge from Lagos to Kano will begin in the next three months.
NRC was operating the rail freight with the narrow gauge before now but stopped due to security issues and problematic tracks.
With the planned resumption of operations, the corporation said it would use a month to repair all the vandalised tracks on the narrow gauge, assemble all the wagons and service them before putting them on track.
Alkali said the railway corporation has already started using standard gauge to move cargo from Lagos to Ibadan but will begin the Apapa to Kano on narrow gauge in three months’ time.
He further said the Federal Government had already fixed the narrow gauge from Lagos to Kano and will now get some locomotives and wagons to take containers from Apapa and move them to Kano.
“Once we evacuate containers from Lagos to Ibadan via the standard gauge, we will use the narrow gauge to move them to Kano,” Alkali said.
The Minister however directed Fidet Okhiria, managing director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation to look into the cleanliness of the coaches and enhance patronage on railways.
Okhiria said the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, being the port economic regulator, and the former Minister of Transportation had set up a ministerial committee headed by the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation to look into freight charges.
He said the committee will ensure the smooth operation of freight rail.
“The terminals are charging N60,000 per container for moving the container to the wagon freight, which is still higher than the movement on trucks, and the Shippers’ Council is working on that. The terminal charges are high because of the double handling; presently, moving cargo by rail is more expensive than road but is faster.
“We have minimum operational cost, and we don’t need to go and borrow money to buy diesel, that is why we are starting the freight rail movement of cargo handling now,” Okhiria said.
He said NRC had begun the freight movement from the port pending when they received an order from the Minister to reduce charges.
Okhira said that NRC had about 120 narrow gauge wagons, as the Federal Government had been proactive, and the corporation had placed an order through the China Civil Engineering Construction Company.
Earlier this month, the Federal Government finally commenced container haulage from Apapa Port to Moniya in Ibadan through the $1.5 billion standard gauge rail, more than two years after the rail line was commissioned by the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister of Transportation, who inaugurated the first cargo movement from the Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor during his first official tour of the rail corridor in Lagos, said containers will be moved using one line that has been completed out of the three standard gauge lines while the government works on removing the Customs scanner building impeding the completion of the other two lines.
Moving containers from Apapa Port in Lagos to Kano using the rail line, analysts said, will help to decongest Apapa roads by reducing the number of containers carrying trucks on the roads.
It will also contribute to cost reduction, and time-saving for cargo owners, and will further ensure the safety of the consignments being moved by rail.
In terms of cost, it costs half of what is presently spent on the road to move containers by rail.