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Managing Rail Transportation In Nigeria

Rail transportation will breathe fresh life into the transport sector and reduce the intense pressure on the highways. It is therefore commendable that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has continued where President Goodluck Jonathan stopped in completing ongoing rail projects. But the operations of the rail routes have called to question the ability of the federal government to properly run the corporation. From non-availability of tickets to inability to manage passenger traffic during peak hours, the experience of passengers, especially along the busy Abuja-Kaduna route, has been harrowing.

It is baffling that in this day and age railway tickets are still being sold manually. With that, hundreds of passengers at train stations spend several hours on the queue trying to buy tickets from the few booths available. While we urge the railway management to introduce e-ticketing for their passengers to buy tickets on-line while validating them at the stations before departure, it is glaring from recent arrests by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that some perverse incentives have been created for racketeering and fraud.

All over the world, rail is the most common mode of mass transit, both for short and long distances. In some countries like China and Japan rail transportation has been modernised with high-speed express trains that even compete with airlines. They can cover hundreds of kilometres within an hour. However, our experience in Nigeria has been that of a gnawing irritation and a chorus of lamentation about what used to be. Even though slow, tedious, painful and often overcrowded, rail transportation has been accepted as a means of transport as far back as colonial times where millions of commuters and goods of international commerce like cocoa, groundnut, rubber, were moved to the ports during the heyday of agricultural boom. Besides relieving the roads of pressure and traffic snarls, rail transportation was highly economic and energy efficient. Even more, the rail corporation was then a big employer of labour with more than 40,000 staff on its payroll.

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Source: Thisday

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