LAGOS – As part of the efforts to complete the Lagos-Ibadan rail line ahead of its original three years duration, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has tasked the contractors to complete the Lagos – Abeokuta axis in two weeks.
The Lagos-Abeokuta part of the project, which is almost set from Agbado to Abeokuta, is remaining a a little part from Agbado to Iju.
The minister, who stated that though the construction is well ahead of schedule and could be flagged off as it is, insisted that since passengers are more from Iju than Agbado, it is logical to complete Ije-Agbado before flag off.
According to him, “I may be pushing them a bit hard but, I want the project delivered.
“Though, we cannot say that the contractor, the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) is not trying but, for commercial purposes, they have to complete the section so that, passengers can board train to Abeokuta.
“Getting to Abeokuta you will see that there’s an improvement but the problem they have now is the civil work between Agbado and Iju which is critical to me because I don’t think passengers will go to Agbado to join the train.
“I believe that the closer we are to Lagos the better for the rail and that is why I had to tell them to tell me what they will do about this before the next two weeks, although there’s a huge improvement up to this point. I want them to speed up the construction from Iju to Agbado.”
On why the contractor had yet to bring in more equipment to hasten the pace of work, the minister stated that the excuse given by the firm was that the equipment were not off-the-shelf items that could be moved easily to Nigeria from abroad.
On the importance of the project, the Minister said “part of the solution to the congestion around Lagos sea port is an efficient rail line.
“You can argue that the narrow gauge is there but it is not efficient. But the moment you fix this then those goods will be transferred to the rail and then the logjam will disappear.
“The moment we do the section from Iju to the sea port, then most of those goods, especially the ones gong to Ibadan will be on the rail lines.”
When asked whether the government was being pressured by Nigerians to complete the rail project, Amaechi replied, “Of course, and it is also because of the speed for it takes you about 30 minutes by rail from Lagos to Ibadan as against over one hour by road. And this is subsidised.”
On the chances of completing the target before two weeks, the minister insisted that it was only earth work that was required and insisted that the contractor must complete it within two weeks.
Meanwhile preparations are already in top gear for flag off of the newly constructed rail line as the Nigeria Railway Corporation has started moving two coaches to Lagos from Delta state.