As the Abuja – Kaduna train service clocks 900 days of operation, EJIKE EJIKE, in this article, examines the progress and challenges recorded so far.
The $1.46 billion Abuja-Kaduna train service, which was inaugurated on July 26, 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari, was kicked off by President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime and has worked for over two years without interruption.
The 186.5km Nigerian first standard-guage rail track connects the federal capital city, Abuja with Kaduna State, which enables faster movement of goods and people between the two cities.
With the addition of eight coaches on January 5, 2018, the rail transport currently operates four trips, conveying about 2000 passengers on a daily basis to and from the Abuja -Kaduna route.
Speaking on the revenue generation in-between 2017 and 2018, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) revealed that it generated over N1.152,000,000 in the last two years of operating the Abuja-Kaduna train service.
The managing director of the corporation, Fidet Okhiria, explained that the service raked in over N80 million monthly from the Abuja-Kaduna train service in 2018.
This amounted to over N960 million in 12 months of 2018.
Okhiria said that the figure was higher than the N16 million generated monthly in 2017, amounting to N192 million in 12 months of 2017.
The records of the operation of the train service in the first five months were not properly accounted for as the service operated free test running service in the initial period of operation.
Ikhiria had explained that he did not have record of the daily income of the service, noting that in the first week of operation, “we made N2.2 million; in the second week, we made N2.9 million. Last week report showed that we had almost 5,000 passengers in six days.”
The NRC boss, however, said that in spite of the increase in revenue, the corporation is yet to break even as it still spends over N100 million monthly as running cost.
He said that in 2018, the number of train trips also increased from four to eight, adding that 10 more coaches would be deployed on the route.
Okhiria said that the goal is to run hourly train service on the route as Nigerians become more confident in the service.
“We are close to breaking even on the Abuja-Kaduna train, we have made progress because of the efforts we made. When we started, we were earning about N16 million and spending about N56 million, but right now, we can comfortably say we earn over N80 million although we still spend over N100 million, which is closer to breaking even.
“By the time we have more coaches and run more trains, I think the expenses would reduce and more patronage would come in.
“The issue we have now is that we only run passenger trains; we don’t have freight to move from Kaduna to Abuja.”
Okhiria further attributed the high expenses to the purchase of diesel for generators at the train stations.
“If we were able to link up with some people to move freight, we would be able to break even because presently, by the time we inject power from the public power supply, I think our expenses would also come down.
“Right now, our stations are still powered by generators 24/7, we buy about 99,000 litres of diesel every month to power those generators, so it eats deep into our expenses.
“But by the time we are able to connect to the public power supply, which we hope would happen this month, the cost of buying diesel will drastically reduce and then, we can break even, “he explained.
Meanwhile, the service has recorded over 900,000 passengers in its first two years of operation.
The manager, Abuja-Kaduna Train Service, Mr Pascal Nnorli, disclosed that at the two years anniversary of the service, approximately 900,000 passengers have been recorded.
He also explained that the service has provided 600 direct jobs since inception.
However, after two years of service, the glitz and excitement that heralded the opening of the Abuja-Kaduna train service seems to have dewindled.
Investigation revealed that ticket racketeering, (especially at weekends)poor hygiene, lack of proper security checks and theft, are still a problem around the Idu – Rigasa service station.
At some of the stations along Idu, Kubwa, and Rigasa, our investigation shows that there were no proper security checks and no proper means of identifiying passengers, thereby, making it easy for infiltration by criminal elements.
Also, about the hygiene of the toilets in both Abuja and Kaduna stations, our investigation showes that most times, it is only one of the taps that is running in Kubwa station, while that of Kaduna is worse.