Nigeria Launches New China-funded Railway

Credit: Africanews

Nigeria has commenced trial operations for its China-funded Lagos-Ibadan railway. The experimental operations, which were conducted with passengers on board, covered the 156km journey between Ibadan and Lagos in 2 hours and 40 minutes, Africa news reported. 

According to Africa news, the line, a double-track standard gauge rail, is the first of its kind in West Africa and runs from Nigeria’s economic hub and most populous city to Ibadan, capital of Oyo state. In a statement by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCEC), the project’s contractors said travel time will be cut to two hours. Passengers will pay between N3,000 ($8) and N6,000 ($16) for tickets.

The train, which according to officials departs Ibadan for Lagos at 8 am daily with a return trip scheduled at 4 pm, is the first part of a new 2,733km Lagos-Kano standard gauge line. The total cost of the project was valued at $11.117bn. 

An independent investigation by The Guardian revealed that the newly introduced service provides fully air-conditioned train services in the economy, business, and first-class categories and has the fare list from Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan zone 1-2 as follows: 24-seater coaches (N6,000), 56-seater coaches (N5,000), 68-seater coaches (N3, 500), and 88-seater coaches (N2,500).

Controversies So Far

The trial operations have sparked controversy over ‘elitist’ charges and concern about its commercial viability. There is also skepticism regarding its capacity to generate enough income to repay more than $1.5 billion in debt incurred on the project.

It also turned out, according to The Guardian, that only one of the several thousands of Nigerians that daily ply the Ibadan-Lagos route was willing and able to buy a seat (at the cost range of N3, 000 and N6, 000) for the 100-kilometer trip in the hundreds-capacity passenger train. “Nigeria had, in 2017, secured a $6.1 billion loan from China Exim Bank for the construction of Calabar-Port Harcourt, Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Kano rail, Lagos to Kaduna railway, and another $1.5 billion counterpart funding for the Lagos-Ibadan project. Several other loans have been incurred since then to fund President Muhammadu Buhari’s rail project, which the government said would support the new industrial revolution drive of the administration,” The Guardian said.

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