The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has commenced passengers’ train services on the Warri-Owa-Oyibu-Itakpe railway line which was initially meant to haul iron sheets from one end to the other.
During the recent tour of the standard gauge line which runs from Delta State and terminates in Kogi State with various stops in Edo State by the management of the corporation in Owa-Oyibu, THISDAY learnt that the service would commence in the first week of November free of charge for one month.
The Managing Director of NRC, Mr. Fridet Okhiria, while chatting with select journalists, urged the residents of the adjoining communities to take adequate advantage of the train services provided for them by the corporation in order to attract development to their communities as well as ease their burden on the roads.
The train ride, which would take about 4 to 5 hours from one end to the other, and have a complete checkup for about an hour before taking off again, according to Okhiria, is centrally aimed at easing the suffering of the people in navigating their place of work, home and for leisure.
According to him, “NRC is commencing a free train ride operation from Itakpe to Warri by November which will run for one month. The coaches are super comfortable even for those who want to read, relax and have fun. The development will also allow the people in the connecting communities to reinvest themselves in small scale businesses and grow the economy of the areas and Nigeria at large. It will be cheaper because rail services are the cheapest means of transportation because of the huge number of people and goods involved.
“The government wants to provide these services affordably for the people and we are not limiting them to the townships alone but also for goods and services as well as livestock for those in the rural areas. It will also collaborate with the road to make movement of people easier.”
On how the services would be operated, the Deputy Director of Operations, Akin Osinowo, said in order to further ease the movement of people and goods along the train route, NRC would create halt stations in various (smaller) communities connected to the rail line. He noted that that would also create access for those living in towns a bit farther from the major stops.
He said: “This is because we are looking at potential places for what we call halt stations; they are not permanent stations. You can see that the permanent stations are where they are. But would also want to setup permanent stations that are nearer to the communities and closer for access so that when those stations are finished, people will already have had a feel of what it is like and then it will not be too much of a problem for them to find their way there.”
Osinowo further stated that the train coaches would be fully sanitised for health and wellbeing of the passengers, as well as lives and goods being protected by armed marshals onboard, adding that “there will be onboard security at every halt station. We will have what is known as train marshals who are armed policemen on every train coach and station. Basically, everything we have in Abuja-Kaduna train service would be replicated here- sanitation, health services as well as tight security of lives of those onboard and their properties.”
Osinowo, who is also the Chairman of the committee in charge of the train operations, noted that as a sign of adequate preparation to serve the people, NRC would initially operate a seven-coach train with 88 capacity each free of charge, adding that “the idea is that the train will leave from station 10 Ujewu in Warri in the morning to Itakpe, Kogi State, where it would connect Okpara, Abraka, Owa-Oyibu (Agbor), Igbanke, Uromi, Agenegbode, Itogbo, Ajaokuta and ends the journey in Itakpe, spend an hour there and then return that same day to Warri. So that is our current intention.”
Meanwhile, the people of Owa-Oyibu (major station), Idumuesah and Abavo, whose communities are also connected by the rail line, have expressed delight over the imminent rail services and commended the management of NRC for having the will to finally commence “such vital and marvelous services for the people.”
However, they confided in THISDAY that without accessible road to the railway station in Owa-Oyibu, it would be difficult to access the train services as it would be easier to board a bus going to Warri from Agbor, adding that NRC should kindly look into revamping the farm roads from Oyibu and Idumuesah, and help ease the movement of the potential passengers and their goods.
When this request was put forward to the NRC managing director, he benevolently noted that NRC would look into making thing easier for the people as the corporation is solely poised to serve Nigerians adequately. Also, a technical officer of TEAM, one of the contractors manning the railway project, called on the Ika North East Local Government Authorities to help with the repairs of the adjoining roads to the railway station in Owa-Oyibu and ease the troubles in accessing it.