Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail project, a 320 kilometre rail line linking Warri in Delta State to Ajaokuta in Kogi State, is about 80 per cent ready.
The 320 kilometre rail line which will form the central line of Nigeria’s national rail network currently runs from Itakpe in Kogi State to Warri in Delta State with plans to link to Lokoja, and Abuja, Nigeria’s capital in its next phase.
More than three decades after the commencement of construction of the 320 kilometre rail line, the arrival of the first passenger train to Delta took place on Friday, July 27. The train took off from Itakpe in Kogi State and travelled through a 320km rail track to Warri in Delta state.
Though the project has not been completed, the new train will run while the rebuilding of the vandalised railway stations along the route and signalling system will be ongoing.
Earlier this month, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr Fidet Okheria, said this was to avert fresh vandalising of railway equipment in the area by hoodlums who took advantage of the prolonged abandonment to wreck havoc on the facilities initially erected there.
“In two weeks’ time, we want to ride on the train from Itakpe-Ajaokuta to Warri. This will enable us to assess what they have done and to know when the full operation will be inaugurated,” he had said.
Nigeria’s integrated online platform, ALEDEH reports that the arrival of the first passenger train to Delta took place on Friday, July 27, affirming the statement of Mr Okheria, who had said the train will take off from Itakpe-Ajaokuta to Warri “in two weeks’ time”.
— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) July 27, 2018
Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, on Friday, July 27, assured Nigerians that the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail project is about 80 per cent completed and will be ready soon.
Amaechi disclosed this during the inspection tour of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line in Agbor, Delta State.
The Transportation Minister furthered that the rail line would be completed before the scheduled date, adding that the tracks are ready, only the stations yet to be completed.
“It is between 70 to 80 per cent completed, but you must know that this job is meant to be completed in 2019”, Amaechi said.
“However, we are compelling them (the contractors) and because we are pushing them, they are working day and night to have it done.
“If it is time frame, they are well ahead of schedule. It is meant to be completed in 2019 and what we are doing here is what we are doing in Lagos-Ibadan and that project is actually a three-year contract. But we are forcing them to complete it in one-year period.
“Just like this is supposed to end by 2019 but we are saying no, you must leave site before October.
“However, we had a verbal agreement with them to quit site by June 2018,” the Transportation Minister added.
Amaechi stated that the government had no apology when it comes to borrowing to fund infrastructure in Nigeria.
On his part, Okhiria said by September the train operation would commence to maintain the tracks.
According to him, if the government waits for all the 12 train stations to be completed, the tracks will go bad.
“Technically, with the level of work now, we can run the train from Itakpe-Warri safely, the next stage is to make the convenience for passengers available which is the stations building.
“It is possible to operate now with one train, as far as we have communication signals and for the stations, some will be completed in August, some September, but we are not going to wait for that or else the tracks will go bad, so as a train operator, we will not wait,” Okhiria said.
Also speaking, Mr Chiedu Nwazojie, the Project Manager of Itakpe-Warri Railway Project, said the project has a total of 12 stations but they are presently working on eight stations.
Nwazojie said the whole project is 302 kilometres (km), with rehabilitation ongoing 52km, which is from Itakpe to Ajaokuta, changing the wooden sleepers to concrete sleepers ones.
The Project Manager said they are working on Agenebode station, Itakpe, Eganyi, Ajaokuta, Itogbo, Uromi, Igueben-Ekhen, Igbanke and Agbor, which is the central station at the moment.
Nwazojie, however, complained that the progress of work is being affected by the rainy season, stating that the initial August dateline might not be feasible.
In a related development, Tolu Ogunlesi, the special assistant to Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari on digital media, has called on telecommunication companies in Nigeria to start planning base stations for the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri route, noting that they won’t regret the move.
“Dear @MTNNG @AirtelNigeria @9mobileng @GloWorld @ntelng Time to start planning base stations for the #ItakpeWarriRail Route. It’s currently a service ‘desert’. 12 Stations in all, in Kogi, Edo, Delta. Let’s start #TelcoWars, be the first to launch. You won’t regret it”, the President’s aide wrote on the micro blogging site, twitter.
Time to start planning base stations for the #ItakpeWarriRail Route. It’s currently a service ‘desert’. 12 Stations in all, in Kogi, Edo, Delta.
— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) July 27, 2018