The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi has defended government’s decision to raise the fare on all categories of tickets on the Abuja-Kaduna train service, saying poor people do not use train service.
Amaechi who spoke to journalists during a test run of the newly delivered Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) consisting of two locomotives and eight coaches, explained that passengers who use the service can afford the hike in price.
The service is due to resume on July 29, after it was suspended in April as part of measures to check the spread of Coronavirus.
The Minister disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved a hike in fares from N1,500 to N3,000 for Economy class, N2500 to N5,000 for Business class and N6000 for the VIP coaches.
Questioned by journalists on the affordability of the new fare, the Minister said that people using the train are not poor and can afford the fares, adding that a lot of people are of the opinion that the fare is nothing compared to the risk of kidnappers on the road.
The Minister explained that the hike in fares was to ensure that physical distancing is maintained as well as cover the running cost of the operations.
“In a month, we get about N120 million and if we run like this, we will realize about N60million. It then means that we need another N60 million to complement the running cost. What the president did to approve the new fare was to say, once you can get your running cost, it is okay”.
He noted that there was pressure for the service to resume before the Sallah celebrations, adding that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) will be increasing operations from the initial eight services on both routes pre Covid-19 to 14 commercial operations daily.
In his update on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, Amaechi stated that the project was moving at a slow pace now due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the number of workers were reduced from 1,000 to 10, and because of this the big stations are not yet completed.
He said: “The two things we can do is to either run skeletal services and be running two services, one going and one coming that means they will be using the double tracks but they won’t be using the stations and if they have to use the stations nobody should complain that they are uncompleted stations but we will only do that if there is heavy pressure on traffic, if not they may have to wait till the stations are ready.
“We had targeted May and they were working towards May but unfortunately Covid-19 came, so we told them to complete the small stations cause that one is easy 10 persons can complete that station but the biggest station in Ebutte Metta they will need about 1000 workers on site and we don’t want to risk that because of spread of the virus”.
Meanwhile Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has said that security is not an issue on the Abuja-Kaduna rail service but that of people obeying the Federal Government’s Coronavirus guidelines.
He stated this while briefing newsmen on Saturday at the testing running operation trip of the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC) in Kaduna.
“The train is secure, the train is well protected, even the Abuja-Kaduna highway is well protected, there has not been a kidnapping case there since October last year.
“So, I’m not worried about security. What I want to appeal to people that will use the train is to ensure that they keep physical distancing, wash their hands as the Covid-19 is still very much around.
“Infections are rising and the fastest way to get it is a congested train.
“So we must be very careful, we must not insist on going on the train if it is up to the capacity and everyone must wear his face mask before entering the train, throughout the train ride and after.
“That is what I will appeal to everyone because this disease is still with us, we have not reached the peak and when we reach the peak it comes down and there is likely to be a second wave,” he said.