President Muhammadu Buhari says railway mode of transportation is a vital backbone for industrialisation and economic development of the country.
Mr Buhari said this on Tuesday while inaugurating the Itakpe-Warri rail line for commercial operations at the Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex in Agbor (Owa-Oyibu), Asaba, Delta State.
He urged all stakeholders in the transportation sector and the railway sub-sector to continue to support Government in its stride to achieve other railway projects.
“I also ask for your support at realising this milestone of a functional and full-fledged central railway, after more than 30 years during this project has suffered several setbacks and false starts.
“ I implore those who work on this line to uphold maintenance and safety culture necessary for long-lasting service in this difficult terrain.
“By the same token, I urge other sectors who will be primary beneficiaries of this transportation backbone, including the iron and steel sector, stakeholders in agricultural and mining sectors on this corridor, as well as the host communities to protect and sustain this infrastructure and maximize the benefits that could be derived from it and which is readily available at their doorsteps.
“This project will increase the volume of their trade and kick start and resuscitate the iron and steel complexes. All these, I hope will improve our industrial potentials and capacities as well as boost employment.
“It is expected that with the commencement of operation of this Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line, it will account for close to one million passengers a year and also unleash approximately 3.5 million tonnes capacity of freight annually that will service all off-takers on this corridor and beyond.
According to the President, his administration has approved to link the recently inaugurated rail line to Abuja, connecting the Northern Zone of the Country and also extending southwards to link the Warri Ports.
Mr Buhari congratulated the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and his team for successfully completing the project.
He also recognised the host communities on the corridor for their patience during the long wait of over 30 years for the realisation of the project and for their cooperation during the completion works.
Mr Amaechi, in his remark, said his Ministry was working in line with the President’s directives regarding the prioritised railway lines.
He said he was also concluding negotiation for the extension of the rail line to Warri port and Northward to Abuja and also working on other new lines connecting the State Capitals including commercial and administrative centers.
He said the project being inaugurated, started in 1987 during the Military era but underwent protracted hiccups and prolonged abandonment which attest to more than three decades of investment, hope and despair.
He said the project, with a passion to realise for Nigeria effective and efficient transportation was resuscitated by the Buhari administration.
“With the priority attached to the provision of railway infrastructure by Mr President and in readiness to complete this project, the Federal Government in August, 2017 approved the contract for the reconstruction of the 54 Kilometer of the Itakpe Ajaokuta section of the rail line.
“Construction of 12 ultra-modern station buildings as well as intermodal bus terminal in Itakpe Station was awarded to Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited.
“Also the construction of siding tracks to service the buildings in the Ancillary Yard including locomotive workshop, Rolling stock depot, maintenance workshop, fuelling depot, goods platform in this facility the yard was awarded to the contractor.
“The Government also approved the completion of other structures including admin block, communication towers, medical bay, quarters for workers, within this railway ancillary facilities yard to Messrs Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.
“Today, we are looking at a brand new, modern, fully fitted functional railway of 326 Km single track standard gauge railway line,” Mr Amaechi said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the occasion was graced by top government officials, stakeholders, community leaders and residents.