President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, with a pledge to link all states of the federation with the rail system to boost socio-economic development and regional integration.
Buhari, who made the pledge at the inaugural ceremony at Idu, Abuja on Tuesday, said the Federal Government would strictly pursue the implementation of 25-year Strategic Master Plan for the Nigerian Railway.
The President also pledged that all major commercial and production centres would be linked with the rail system to ensure rapid economic development nationwide.
He expressed optimism that the Abuja-Kaduna rail line would ensure affordable and safe movement of passengers and cargo between Abuja and Kaduna.
``I wish to assure Nigerians that most state capitals and major commercial and production centres will be linked with railway system as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of the Nigerian and promoting social & regional integration.
``Furthermore, I wish to also reassure Nigerians that due attention will be placed on pursuing the 25-Year Strategic Railway Master Plan, which is aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country.
``As we celebrate the symbolic return of rail service today, I wish to reiterate the commitment of this administration to pursue with greater vigour and determination rehabilitation and construction of other rail lines including the major Lagos-Calabar and Kano-Lagos lines.’’
The President expressed the hope that with the inauguration of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, ``those good old days will soon be back with us and indeed in a more prosperous way with the restoration of rail transport system, which today’s occasion symbolises.’’
``It is on record that between 1963 and early 1980s, Nigeria had a vibrant rail system, which conveyed agricultural and livestock and solid mineral resources to Lagos and Port Harcourt sea ports from where they were exported to other parts of the world.’’
Buhari further assured that the Abuja-Kaduna train service would provide the much needed alternative transport link between the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna State.
According to him, Abuja-Kaduna corridor has a huge potential for industries, agricultural activities and a growing labour force.
He commended the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and his team for their efforts in the last few months at ensuring the successful completion of the segment of the railway project –the life of the present administration.
``Completion and commissioning of this project is indeed in keeping with our vision of bringing about the desired change to make life easier for the generality of Nigerians through the development and provision of the necessary social and physical infrastructure,’’ he said.
In his message of goodwill, Gov. Nasiru El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State said the Abuja-Kaduna rail line had effectively made Kaduna as a satellite town of FCT.
He said that the state government would open up three new satellite towns along the Abuja-Kaduna road, namely: Jere, Rijana and Rigasa - to decongest FCT.
``For us in Kaduna, this rail system has effectively made Kaduna a satellite town of Abuja because our citizens can live in Kaduna and commute to Abuja to walk, which is a major advantage for the state.
``Our intention is to create new satellite towns at Jere, Rijana and Rigasa.
``Our hope is to take away people that currently live in Kubwa, Lughe and other satellite towns of Abuja to live in Kaduna state and commute and walk in Abuja.
``We are therefore, extremely grateful to the federal government, to you Mr President and the Minister of Transportation, the entire team including (China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation) CCECC for making this segment of the project a reality.’’
The governor said that the state government would also construct an intra-city rail system within Kaduna metropolis to ease transportation in the state.
Also speaking, Amaechi disclosed that the Abuja-Kaduna rail line was initiated by the Olusegun Obasanjo regime and was partially executed by the Goodluck Jonathan administration before completion by the Buhari administration.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the development of railway transportation has been a major focus of the Federal Government.
This led to the development and approval of a 25-year strategic vision for the Nigerian railway.
This programme consists of rehabilitation, modernisation and stabilisation of the railway system.
The modenisation phase began in 2009 with the signing of the contract for the construction of the Abuja (Idu) to Kaduna (Rigasa) rail line.
The project was jointly financed by the Federal Government of Nigeria and China Exim Bank.