By Frank Kintum

Infinity Tyres

Sometime in April 2019, I had an opportunity to join the Honourable Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, on an inspection trip of the standard railway gauge linking Lagos and Ibadan.

We took off from the Ebute-Metta train station, headquarters of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Lagos District office by Alajogemi bus stop off the popular Murtala Mohammed carriageway between Yaba bus stop and Oyingbo market.

The trip was an eye-opener, as it revealed in-depth the level of work being carried out by the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC).

The efforts of the industrious minister finally came to initial fruition when on June 11, President Muhammdu Buhari unexpectedly showed up in Lagos to commission the Mobalaji Bank Anthony ultra-modern terminal in Lagos as well as flagged off the full commencement of commercial operations of the line.

After this historic feat, I have continuously dreamt of having a feel of the ride again in full commercial operations as a passenger. Alas, last month, I had to attend the funeral ceremonies of the late father of the Lagos Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Ibadan. I didn’t think twice about the mode of transportation to use.

I was impressed when the train took off at exactly 8 am on schedule, and after brief stops at Agege, Papalanto, Abeokuta and Omi Adio terminals, we safely arrived at Ibadan, known for its serene environment and amala meal.

Nonetheless, I was not really impressed with the travel time of about 2 hours 45 minutes, as I was expecting a faster travel time, have been told that the train can run at over 100 kilometres per hour. Aside from this, I was thrilled by the super noiseless train, unlike travelling by road or the single gauge line.

Also, the air-conditioning system did not disappoint, as it was moderately applied, not too cold and sufficient enough to keep the scorching heat at bay.

You need to take a ride to truly appreciate the enormous leg space in the standard coaches. The Business Class coaches are even better!

Comparatively, to the road journey, you do not need to ask the driver to stop in order for you to ease yourself. Very clean toilets are provided in all the coaches. The prayer is that these toilets remain well maintained and clean.

I also spotted a lady I suspected to be a nurse on duty, and I was not far from the truth when during the announcements, it was stated that a nurse is always on board in case of emergencies.

The management of the NRC seems not to have left anything to chance because onboard are fully armed security personnel who patrol all the coaches throughout the duration of the journey.

I understand the mini kitchen which serves snacks on request was suspended because of covid-19. But I think it is high time the management of the NRC reconsiders, provided the necessary protocols are observed.

Nutritionists say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and a typical passenger who leaves his home early in order to catch the train, may not have the opportunity to eat until about 11 am or even 12 noon when he or she must have left the Ibadan or Lagos terminal.

The trip also revealed that though the train runs smoothly (2 trips daily) and the main Lagos terminal has been commissioned, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially with the different uncompleted terminals.

My conclusion is that the Minister of Transport has been able to ensure that the Buhari administration can always look back and be proud of this gigantic transport infrastructure.

I was so impressed by the train trip (by my assessment, better than Abuja-Kaduna) that I had to embark on another trip again, this time around with my family, and we visited the Zoological garden (zoo) at the University of Ibadan. I will tell you more about this trip in my next Travelogue column.

It has been said that the taste of the pudding is in the eating, go give it a trial!

The Lagos-Ibadan train picks passengers at Agege (Fashola Station) Sunday – Friday at 8.21 am and 4.21pm. On Saturdays, it is 8.51 am and 6.25 pm.  On the Ibadan-Lagos trip, you disembark at Agege at 10. 23 am and 6.25 pm respectively, Sundays to Friday.

On Saturday however, your time of disembarking is 10. 56pm and 8.50 pm respectively.  Don’t forget that there are two other stops, for now, apart from Yaba, Agege and Moniya. , you can also catch or leave the train in Abeokuta and Omi Adio.

If your destination is Challenge, Dugbe up to Bodija, the Omi Adio station is your best bet.  But if you are going further down to UI, Sango and Ojoo,  or even beyond Ibadan, then drop or join the train at Moniya.

Lagos District Manager of NRC, Mr Jerry Oche, revealed recently that the Corporation recorded 33,140 passenger traffic from the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway in the month of July.

The federal government has explained that the contract sum of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project is $1.6 billion and that the cost index/km is $4.09 million. The project is being financed by funds from the federal government and loans from China.