The Minister of Transportation, Sen. Sa’idu Alkali, has said that the freight wagon haulage on the narrow gauge from Lagos to Kano will begin in the next three months.
Alkali made the disclosure during his visit to Kajola Wagon Assembly Plant in Ogun, on Tuesday.
He said the railway corporation was using standard gauge to carry cargo from Lagos to Ibadan. but will begin the operation from Apapa to Kano in three months time.
Alkali said that 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, we will use the narrow gauge to move them to Kano,” Alkali said.
After visiting some of the railway facilities, the Minister directed the Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, to look into the cleanliness of the coaches, to enhance patronage on railways.
Okhiria, on his part, said that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, being the port regulator, and the former Minister of Transportation set up a ministerial committee headed by the the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation to look into freight charges.
He said that the purpose of the committee was to ensure smooth operation of freight rail.
“The impact on NRC is that the terminals are charging 60, 000 per containers 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 are looking to see how we can do it, 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 that NRC had begun the freight rail movement from the port pending when they receive order from the Minister to reduce charges.
Okhiria said that NRC was operating the rail freight with the narrow gauge before now, but stopped due to security issues.
He said the corporation would use a month to repair all the vandalised tracks on the narrow gauge, adding that the management would assemble all the wagons and service them before putting them on track.
Okhira said that NRC had about 120 narrow gauge wagons, as the Federal Government had been proactive and the corporation had placed order through the China Civil Engineering Construction Company.