By Sulaimon Salau
With the commissioning of the $1.5 billion Lagos-Ibadan railway project that links the Apapa seaports, about N140 billion that were hitherto lost to gridlock on roads will now be drastically reduced.
Stakeholders, who spoke to The Guardian on the development, said the rail connection to the port would aid the smooth movement of cargoes in and out of the ports.
President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, had estimated that the nation was losing about N140 billion weekly to traffic gridlocks on the access road to Nigeria’s busiest seaports in Apapa, Lagos.
For over a decade, evacuation of cargoes from the seaports has become a clog in the wheel of the seaborne trade, which contributes over N34 billion to the country’s economy.
After several tactics and deployment of technologies, the gridlock has proved to be a monster getting stronger with no end in sight. But the unexpected happened within 24 hours when President Muhammadu Buhari visited that area – the gridlock disappears overnight, only for it to resurface a day after.
During the commissioning, Buhari described it as another milestone in revitalisation of railway projects to boost economic activities in Nigeria.
A spokesperson for terminal operators under the aegis of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Bolaji Akinola, told The Guardian that the new development would enhance evacuation of cargo from the port via rail.
Akinola said: “Terminal operators are happy with the railway project. Recall that a few years ago, one of the terminal operators at Apapa Port reconstructed the rail line into the port enabling the haulage of containers twice a week from the port to the north. With the commissioning of the new rail line by the President on Thursday, we expect to see more cargo exit the port via the rail. This will contribute to taking some pressure off the road.
“Recall that terminal operators have been using barges also to reduce pressure on the road. We, therefore, look forward to seeing tank farms and manufacturing concerns put their cargo on barges and on the new rail line to reduce the number of trucks on our roads.
“All stakeholders must support the efforts of government and terminal operators to facilitate the exit of cargo from the port and decongest the road,” he said.
President, Shippers Association of Lagos, Jonathan Nicol, said the rail connection was a good development to aid the movement of cargoes for shipping, calling for proper maintenance and upgrade.
He said: “It is an excellent development. The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has delivered. It is now left for those in charge to sustain the infrastructure.
“Goods can now be transferred to Ibadan with ease and back to the port with export cargo. I wish they could develop a Transit Container Depot at Ikeja for Industries to pick up their containers. Then, Lagos port will ease up a bit,” Nicol said.
The Manager, Port Projects, Port of Antwerp International, Belgium, Philippe Droesbeke, during a visit to Lagos recently, said multimodal connection (adoption of road, rail and waterways for transportation) is one of the solutions to the congestion at Nigerian ports, urging the country to shift from it’s over-dependence on roads for cargo evacuation to rail and waterways.
He stated that the Port of Antwerp handles over 140 million tonnes of cargoes yearly, but deploys a multimodal approach for cargo evacuation with rail carrying 50 percent, barges responsible for 40 percent, while the roads only handle 10 percent.
The Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project, Lagos-Ibadan section with extension to Lagos Port at Apapa starts from Lagos, the largest Port City
The length of the mainline is 156.8 km with 6.51km extension to Apapa Port. It connects three important states in the south-west region namely Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states.
The project adopts China Railway Standard, with a designed speed of 150 Km/h. It is a double-track standard gauge railway, using diesel traction and an automatic blocking system.
The project will enhance the decongestion of the Lagos Seaport and increase the throughput capacity for better development of the port with a positive influence on the Lagos region.