- Blames COVID-19 for upward review
- Sets July 29 for train services resumption
Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The federal government saturday increased the Abuja-Kaduna train fare by 100 percent across economy, business and first class categories, attributing its decision to the impact of COVID-19 on the train services.
With the fare increase, the federal government disclosed that the Abuja-Kaduna rail services would resume Wednesday, July 29, four months after it suspended the service to curtail the spread of the pandemic.
The hike was revealed in a statement the Federal Ministry of Transportation issued yesterday, announcing the resumption of the train service.
Before the federal government announced lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States on March 30 due to the pandemic, economy class only cost N1, 500; first class normal N2, 500 and first class express N3, 000.
With the need to enforce social distancing aboard the coaches, the federal government increased the fare of the economy from N1,500 to N3,000; first class normal from N2,500 to N5,000 and first class express from N3,000 to N6,000, representing a 100 percent across all categories.
Quoting the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi in its statement yesterday, the ministry disclosed that the Abuja-Kaduna rail services would begin Wednesday.
The minister disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved an increase in train fares during an inspection and test run of the 10 newly acquired coaches and 2 locomotives deployed on the Abuja – Kaduna rail corridor.
According to him, due to the fact that the train will now be conveying half its capacity in order to maintain social distancing, we are increasing the fare price.
He said” “In a month (pre-COVID-19), we get about N120 million, and if we run like this (half capacity), we will realize N60 million. It means that we need another N60 million to complete the running cost.
“It is, therefore for the above reason that the rates have been increased as follows: First class, N6,000, Business Class, N5,000 and Economy, N3,000 to enable Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) meet up at least with the running cost.”
Asked if that would not be too much for the poor to pay, the minister said that they could afford it and that that was certainly cheaper than the ransom to be paid if kidnapped on Abuja-Kaduna road.
On the Itakpe-Warri rail line, the minister observed that when it becomes fully operational, it would be more lucrative than Abuja-Kaduna route because “when the AKK (Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline) project starts, they will carry their pipes from Warri seaport to Itakpe.”
Speaking on why the Lagos-Ibadan railway is stalled, the minister said it would have been commissioned in May but for the fear of exposing the about 1000 workers needed to complete it to COVID-19. For the Ibadan-Kano railway, the minister said lack of funds was delaying its take off.
Similarly, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has said the reopening of the railway could not have happened at a better time, attesting that COVID-19 is real, therefore people should abide by all the safety protocols.
On the issue of the increased train fare, the governor said he wished it would have been higher and called on the ministry and NRC to consider e-ticketing as a measure of addressing ticket racketeering at the train stations.
On his part, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, said that with the arrival of these Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs), the corporation would increase the frequency of trips on the Abuja-Kaduna line from eight (to and fro) trips to 14 per day.
The manager, Abuja – Kaduna Rail Service, Paschal Nnorli, stated that prior to reopening, there would be fumigation of all rolling stocks and offices, also a policy of no mask no entry would be enforced at all stations.
He further disclosed that more DMUs were being expected on the route to manage the high passenger traffic.