The Federal Government has announced plans to construct 10 new rail lines to cover other parts of the country currently not linked by rail.
The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, said on Friday that already feasibility studies had commenced on seven of the proposed railway lines.
Umar, who spoke in Lagos at the inauguration of the Lagos-Kano train service and resumption of fuel haulage by train from Lagos to Offa, said that the feasibility studies on three other planned rail lines would be done in 2013.
The minister inaugurated the Lagos-Kano train, while the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, represented by the Managing Director, LAMATA, Dr. Dayo Mobereola, unveiled the fuel train.
He gave the total distance of the areas to be covered by the seven rail lines as 3,421 kilometres.
The minister said that at the completion of the feasibility studies, the railway development project would be undertaken through public private partnership arrangement.
â€œUpon final construction of these lines, it will improve mass movement of Nigerians and open windows for rapid economic development and regional integration,â€ he said.
Umar stressed that all the new rail lines would be constructed as standard gauge track for the movement of fast trains.
According to him, the new lines will cover Lagos-Sagamu-Ijebu Ode-Ore-Benin (300km); Benin-Agbor-Onitsha-Nnewi-Owerri-Aba, with additional line from Onitsha-Enugu-Abakaliki (500km).
It also included a 615km-high-speed rail track from Lagos to Abuja, passing through Lagos, Oshogbo and Baro.
The minister listed Ajaokuta (Eganyi) â€“ Obajana â€“ Jakura â€“ Baro â€“ Abuja, with additional line from Ajaokuta to Otukpo (533km); Zaria â€“ Kaura Namoda â€“ Sokoto â€“Illela- Birnin Koni (520km) as other areas to be covered.
Others are costal rail line linking Benin- Sapele-Warri-Yenogoa-Port Harcourt â€“ Aba â€“Uyo-Akampa-Ikom-Obudu Cattle Ranch (673km); and Ajaokuta â€“Eganyi- Lokoja- Abaji â€“Abuja line (280km).
The other three lines, whose feasibility contracts would be awarded next year, are Port Harcourt-Umuahia-Enugu-Makurdi-Lafia-Kaduna-Bauchi-Gombe-Biu-Maiduguri; Ikom-Ogoja-Katsina Ala-Wukari-Jalingo-Yola-Maiduguri and Kani-Nguru-Gashua-Damaturu-Maiduguri-Gamborun-Ngala.
The minister also commented on the inaugurated Lagos-Kano line, saying the segment, which he described as the key to the development of the nationâ€™s economy, â€œis vital to the start-off of the transformation of the Nigerian economy.â€
He said the rehabilitation of the rail line, stretching 1,126km, was executed by two contractors, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (km 0-km 488) and Costain West Africa Plc (km 488).
Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, said the rehabilitation project of the track and signalling system was awarded in 2009.
He said, â€œThe opening of Lagos-Kano rail route will no doubt bring a lot of socio-economic benefits to the development of our nation, such as providing employment, enhancing trade and commerce within and outside our communities, as well as taking pressure off our overstressed roads thus reducing frequency of road accidents; it will also strengthen social integration and inter-cultural relationships.â€
The NRC chief executive officer said the fuel train from Lagos to Offa had lifted 450,000 litres of diesel.
He said, â€œThe return of freight service on the Lagos-Kano route will give ample opportunities to our numerous clients, such as Flour Mills, Lafarge Wapco Cement, Dangote Cement, Oando, Total, Sahara Energy, A-Z Oil and Inland Container Limited.â€