Finishing touches are being made on the much awaited Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge project ahead of the planned Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s train ride from Iju in Lagos to Abeokuta, Ogun state next month.
This emerged on Tuesday as the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, alongside members of the House of Representatives Committee on land transport embarked on a test-run drive from kilometre 41 to 73 within the Ogun state axis during the routine inspection of the project.
The team alongside journalists rode on two rail cars for over one hour which moved on some of the already laid tracks.
The 156- kilometre Lagos-Ibadan fast rail with extension to Nigeria’s premier port in Apapa is a three-year project but the contractor, the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) is being pressured to deliver the project in less than two years.
While there are some challenges over the right of way in the Lagos axis, work has progressed in Ogun state axis with the contractor working day and night in line with the government’s marching order.
An official of the CCECC told News men that personnel have been deployed to work 24/7 in addition to the massive equipment and technologies mobilized to the sites.
Amaechi however lauded the performance of the contractor on the Ogun axis and charged them to speed up from Abeokuta to Ibadan, stressing that by the first week of January, the Vice President and some members of the Federal Executive Council would embark on train ride from Iju in Lagos to Abeokuta.
He said after that, a free ride for passengers on the axis would be declared for people living in the area.
The Managing Director of the NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, disclosed that eight locomotives and wagons would be deployed for the free test-run service.
The excited Amaechi after the ride which almost extended to Abeokuta, said, “When we started, it was a huge forest. In fact, as we traversed this place, most places are no longer known to us if you remember. In fact there are now bridges in the little water we used to drive across. There are now valleys in the hills we used to climb. There are changes.
“We are gradually coming to the end of the project because we are six kilometres away from Abeokuta and I have been assured that we would be able to ride from Iju to Abeokuta at least by the first week in January.
“The idea is to bring the Vice President and some ministers to join us in the ride.
“When we do the ride, we will then allow passengers to use it up to Abeokuta. Our target is that by the end of the month, we should get to Ibadan by rail; then we can begin to put the pressure on them to build the stations.
“They are working on the stations but they are slow. But I have told them the emphasis should be on the tracks. In fact today, I will tell them to focus on one track to the end so that while we are using that one, you are building the second one. But as you are building the two, it is slowing down the construction period.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport, Rep. AbdulMumin Jibrin (APC, Kano) said the committee is impressed with the level of work done on the project, saying many Nigerians were not aware that a project of such magnitude was going on.