Nigerian president opens new railway line and promises more

16 August 2016

Nigeria’s first standard gauge rail line has been opened by president Muhammadu Buhari, 16 years after construction started.

“We are on the threshold of presenting to Nigerians a standard gauge railway train service that will be safe, fast and reliable,” said Buhari at a ceremony to mark the line’s opening.

He went on to assure Nigerians the country’s railway system would eventually link most state capitals and major commercial and production centres, but did not set a time frame for doing so.

“I wish to also reassure Nigerians that due attention will be placed on… rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country,” he said.

Nigeria has two main narrow gauge lines, from Lagos in the south to Yobe State in the north, and from Port Harcourt in the Delta to the north-eastern state of Borno. British colonialists started construction on the first Lagos line in 1896.

Standard gauge rail tracks have a distance of 143.51cm between the inside edges of the rails, and it is the width used by more than half of countries in the world including the EU and the US.

The new line runs from the federal capital Abuja to the city of Kaduna, capital of the North Western state of Kaduna, “a corridor which has a huge potential for industries, agricultural activities and a growing labour force,” said Buhari.

Nigeria has also agreed to China’s help in completing a rail line from the Delta oil city of Warri in the south to Abuja, it has been reported.

Nigeria’s transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, signed a memorandum of understanding with the state-owned China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) to complete the line between the Warri and the iron ore mining town of Itakpe, and extend it north to Abuja.

According to the Nigerian Observer Amaechi said: “It is part of the economic corridor in Nigeria where we have solid minerals. We have been working on that line for a long time and we will like to complete it.”

Amaechi said negotiations with CRCC would commence after the partnership is given the president’s approval.

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