Major Gains In Rail Infrastructure

August 18, 2020
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Rail transportation has a strong economic rationale, making it a
competitive modal option for the mobility of passengers and freight.
The ability of trains to haul large quantities of
freight and significant numbers of passengers over long distances is
its primary asset.

Overall, rail transportation is more efficient than road
transportation, although its main drawback is flexibility as traffic
must follow fixed routes, and transshipment must take place at
terminals. Once the cars have been assembled, or the passengers have
boarded, trains can offer a high capacity service at a reasonable
speed, which is significant when high-speed systems are involved. It
was this feature that led to the role of rail in opening the interior
of the continents in the 19th century and remains its primary asset.

Although primitive rail systems existed by the 17th century to move
materials in quarries and mines, it is not until the early 19th
century that the first extensive rail transportation systems were set.

Rail transportation has been the product of the industrial era,
playing a major role in the economic development of Western Europe,
North America, and Japan, where such systems were first massively
implemented. It represented a significant improvement in land
transport technology and has introduced significant changes in the
mobility of freight and passengers. This was not necessarily because
of its capacity to carry heavy loads since maritime transportation
excelled at doing so, but because of its higher level of ubiquity and
its speed. Rail transport systems dramatically improved travel time as
well as the possibility to offer reliable and consistent schedules
that could be included in the planning of economic activities such as
production and distribution. The coherence of economic activities and
social interactions was thus substantially
improved.

Rail transportation brought scheduling and reliability to
transportation systems. The development of the rail system is mostly
influenced by economic reasons. The two major rail lines built by the
colonial masters of Nigeria was the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail
line and the Lagos to Kano rail line. These rail lines were built by
the Europeans for economic reasons. It was to move raw materials, and
cash crops from the rich agricultural hinterland from Maiduguri and
Kano for export to European countries through the sea in Lagos and
Port Harcourt. While imported manufactured goods from the developed
countries of Europe are moved from Lagos and Port Harcourt Ports to
the hinterland. That economic reasons was not lost to the government
of President Muhammadu Buhari when it set out to revitalize the rail
sector that had been in comatose for years.

The minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi while giving an
update on the state of the rail project in the country, recently said:
“We would need billions of dollars to be able to address the rail
infrastructure, not all of them, but at least the one that can hold
the economy and those ones are Lagos to Kano, Lagos to Calabar and
Port Harcourt to Maiduguri. Lagos to Kano is Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan
that we expect to finish before the end of April next year. We are
actually close to the end, it is just the challenges we are having
around Lagos and its cosmopolitan nature. We have finished from Iju to
Ibadan. All we are doing now is to complete the stations. We hope that
before April we would have finished everything about Iju to the
Seaport in Lagos. Now Lagos to Kano is between 8.3 to 8.7 billion
dollars. For that we are getting a loan from the China Exim Bank.”

You could see that like the railway system initiated by the colonial
masters the thinking behind the new order in our railway system is
economic in nature. However, unlike
the colonial masters that were out to use the rail system to plunder
the resources of Nigeria for the benefit of the Queen, Nigerians are
developing the new rail infrastructure for Nigeria’s development.

Undoubtedly, the present administration has consistently pursued the
realisation of efficient and effective rail transportation for Nigeria
in line with the strategic vision for railway transport revival and
development approved in 2002 and this the minister of Transportation,
Mr Chibuike Amaechi is pursuing vigorously by completing, building and
even rehabilitating new railway lines aimed at ensuring provision of
an efficient and affordable transportation that would serve as
backbone to industrial development.

To build a workable rail system is very expensive and Nigeria
presently does not have the resources to do it alone. That is why it
needs foreign partners. China has been Nigeria’s partner in the effort
to modernize Nigeria’s rail infrastructure for the development of our
country.

The gains of rail transport to any economy cannot be overemphasized.
The introduction of the railways enables a substantial reduction in
costs of transport, leading to lower prices of goods in shops;
Improved living standards; Greater choice of goods and services; New
markets; The railways led to the creation of new industries like
tourism; and economic growth. The consequence of lower prices and
lower costs is to encourage investment and spending.
Railways increase the productive capacity of the economy.

Given the enormous benefits of having a functional rail system that
crisscross the whole country, the present administration needs the
support of all the stakeholders to ensure that
our rail system is developed and with that the economic development of
our country can be guaranteed, while the pressure on our poorly
maintained roads will be drastically reduced. With a fully developed
rail system, there will be less
trucks on our roads and less accidents too. According to the FRSC the
trucks constitute 54 per cent of all deaths from road accidents in the
country. Whichever way we look at it modernizing Nigeria’s rail system
is a task that must be accomplished.

Aluta Continua!

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