The Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, has pledged to encourage third party to ensure its sustainability.
Managing Director of the Corporation, Mr. Fidet Okhiria made the call while chatting with newsmen in Abuja.
Mr. Okhiria who noted that in continued efforts to build a railway system that will conform to world standards, promised the corporation readiness to supply the land to enable potential investors develop the service.
According to him the corporation would provide the train service but the third party will provide parks, bus service to move passengers.
“We don’t want to be the ones doing that, that’s why we want to bring in the third party to expand opportunities for people which will be faster for a private investor to operate than for the government because of the due process to follow” Mr. Okhiria added.
“We are trying to encourage investors and we are getting offers from potential investors but we on our part have to use proper intelligence so we don’t fall victims”.
The Managing Director of the NRC noted that the rail was at the lime light because of what the present administration’s was doing by construction of standard gauge tracks which are expected to be functional and interactive.
“People have indicated interest to make parks and transit hotels, we are considering it not only in Itapke – Warri also in Lagos, because all we have to do is to provide additional land” he stressed.
He explained that rail business is not a direct money spinner but it can create a condition for the economy to grow and every other things to go well adding that presently the corporation is looking into the documents of potential investors who have indicated interest in the sector.
“for instance the impact we have on the road and its maintenance of every six months would be reduced, number of accident would also reduce and commuters would travel conveniently.
According to the managing Director, the corporation is working towards bringing in special coaches, though those benefits are not quantifiable in Naira and Kobo.
“There would be an MOU for such operations so that it will be done when it is convenient or comfortable for govt and Nigerians.
He noted that It is in the law for NRC to perform such task and the corporation is doing it in such a way that the govt can take over the coaches bought by private investors.
“They are modernizing the rail system by construction of rail way that can attract travellers and tourists and we want to get the best rail and this cannot be constructed in one day it can take or last up to 50 years to get rails in all parts of the country,” he said.
He stated that it was quite important for the country to have rails because it was a parameter to show the level of economic development and industrialization.
Okhiria stressed that the importance of a functional rail system cannot be over emphasized as it helps to move products and produced goods from industries/companies to the market noting also that it gives a lot of employment.
“You can do it by truck but at a cost Products would be cheaper because you are moving them in bulk and products would be available and the scarcity would be eliminated and prices would be affordable when you have little purchasing power the product would be low” he explained.
He expressed hope that the rails in Nigeria would continue for a longer period adding that all that was needed to achieve this feat was adequate maintenance.
Informing on the progress of the rail system in the country, he stated that it has started the Itapke – Warri, with four trains a day, two from Itapke- Warri and two from Warri- Itakpe.
“We’re developing it, we have investors who wants to invest in rail system, we are ready to give concession, adding that the rail is thirty-six years old but the present government came in and dusted it so that it can functional.
“We have also asked government to put in more coaches for passenger trains so that it can run every 30 minutes and the Lagos- Ibadan which has been on trial runs is now on commercial runs and many people are patronizing the services.
“We are doing four trains but as of today we are trying to do weekend and two trains every other day because the number of people using the train service increases by the day and we are also trying to get what we call parcel vans, where you can deliver your goods to other cities and the recipient with good communication and identity can receive the package” he added.
“Abuja- Kaduna, we have increased from eight to ten, before the passengers used to struggle for tickets but that has reduced because of E – ticketing, also those who were reluctant to use the service because they might come to the station and not get tickets are patronizing us now because it is easy to get your tickets online.
“Also the contract to extend Itakpe to Lokoja has been awarded unfortunately two months after the contract signing covid-19 came, It was supposed to be a PPP and covid-19 affected their economy so they sought more time to regig their terms of contract, if not we should be getting close to Abuja.