Transport minister Sa’idu Alkali says the freight wagon haulage on the narrow gauge from Lagos to Kano will begin by December.
Mr Alkali disclosed this during his Tuesday visit to the Kajola Wagon Assembly Plant in Ogun.
The minister said the railway corporation uses standard gauges to carry cargo from Lagos to Ibadan but will begin the operation from Apapa to Kano by December.
Mr Alkali said 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,” Mr Alkali said.
After visiting some of the railway facilities, the minister directed the Nigerian Railway Corporation managing director, Fidet Okhiria, to look into the cleanliness of the coaches to improve patronage.
Mr Okhiria said the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the port regulator, and the former transport minister set up a ministerial committee headed by the former permanent secretary of the transport ministry to look into freight charges.
Mr Okhiria said the committee’s purpose was to ensure the smooth operation of freight rail.
“The impact on NRC is that the terminals are charging N60,000 per container 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,” stated Mr Okhiria.
The NRC boss added, “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 costs, 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.”
Mr Okhiria said NRC had begun the freight rail movement from the port, pending when they receive an order from the minister to reduce charges. He explained that NRC was operating the rail freight with the narrow gauge before 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.
Mr Okhira said NRC had about 120 narrow gauge wagons, as the federal government had been proactive, and the corporation had placed an order through the China Civil Engineering Construction Company.