The Lagos Ibadan Rail Opens Fresh Socio Economic Opportunities

The Lagos Ibadan Rail Opens Fresh Socio Economic Opportunities

The Lagos Ibadan Rail Opens Fresh Socio Economic Opportunities

The Lagos Ibadan Rail Opens Fresh Socio Economic Opportunities

Commercial operations on the new Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor started on Tuesday, June 15, as announced by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).

From Mondays to Fridays, morning shuttle from Lagos to Ibadan — and vice versa — would leave corresponding stations: Mobolaji Johnson Station, at Alagomeji, Yaba, in Lagos, and Obafemi Awolowo Station, at Moniya, Ibadan, at 8am each day.  Return shuttles, at either stations, are scheduled for 4pm.  On Saturday, morning shuttles start at 8.30am. Return trips are fixed for 6pm.

The NRC schedule was silent on Sunday, which suggests no trips, for now, are billed for Sundays.  Neither was any mention made of freight schedules — which hub would be the Bola Tinubu Station, deep inside the Lagos Apapa Ports complex, from where heavy duty container cargoes would be loaded on freight trains and trucked to the Ibadan Inland Dry Port, for onward distribution to destinations nationwide.

The Lagos-Ibadan cargo track (which would extend to Kano, after the Lagos-Ibadan-Kano standard gauge project is completed), appears the first line of insurance for the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, now undergoing reconstruction.  The train cargo services would spare that road the bulk of heavy duty trucks and trailers, thus extending the life span of the road, other things being equal.

Indeed, this new rail corridor boasts new socio-economic vision and opportunities.  Due credit to President Muhammadu Buhari for his grand infrastructural vision, without which Nigeria cannot domesticate the economy, revive the real sector of local industries, and also boost the safe, secure and speedy movement of agricultural produce to markets nationwide.

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Congratulations too, to Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, transport minister, whose fierce focus, relentlessness and bountiful energy insured this particular project was started and completed within the life of an administration — the first of such, since 1999.

The big irony here is that this legacy project — among other critical infrastructure nationwide — would be an eternal memorial to President Buhari’s tenure.  But so too, would his clear provincialism and alleged nepotism.  Which would trump the other, in the fullness of time, is in the womb of time!

But something is clear: better infrastructure signposts, other things being equal, an economic rebirth.  As Babatunde Fashola, works and housing minister just said, every economy is as good as its infrastructure — the same gospel US President Joe Biden preaches in his new, grand infrastructure vision, now before the US Congress.

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Indeed, the Lagos-Ibadan rail — and later, when the entire Lagos-Ibadan-Kano length is completed — will lead to buzzing new settlements: villages, towns and markets, along the rail track.  For starters, that would be good news for Lagos: overpopulated Lagos can look forward to a healthy de-congestion, without losing its business edge and economic hub.  With regular and dependable rail service, many can safely daily shuttle from outside, do business in the city and go back home.

But the promise of a new “rail economy” presents fresh opportunities and challenges for the NRC.  It dares not fail.  That’s why it must rigorously segment the market, along the new rail corridor.

From its commercial shuttle schedule, its market entry strategy appears focused on passengers: its twin-hub of operations being the Mobolaji Johnson (Lagos) and Obafemi Awolowo (Moniya, Ibadan) stations.

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That’s not bad, given that the Ibadan Dry Port, temporary depository of inland-bound cargo nationwide, is hardly ready for take-off, with linkage roads and other key support infrastructure reportedly yet to be completed.

Still, it must mount a vigorous advert and publicity blitz, to re-route passengers’ mind from the roads, by stressing and demonstrating the relative advantages of rail.  As time goes on, it should launch leisure and tourism packages, to boost passenger traffic and enhance its revenue.

Inasmuch as this is service — of which passengers must get the very best — the NRC must realise it’s basically business.  It’s the product of a loan, which must be defrayed as soon as possible, if this golden asset is not to turn wooden liability for the future generation.

But where the NRC market could be near-captive could be the cargo segment, from its Bola Tinubu Station, Apapa, hub.  For starters, if well locked in, a thriving rail freight market would free Apapa from its truck-and-trailer logjam.  Many — if not most — of those invading drivers would face Ibadan instead.  Which is why everything must be done to ensure the Apapa chaos is not replicated in Ibadan, when that market peaks.

Cargo may well hold the key to making the Lagos-Ibadan rail a profitable investment, by generating enough earnings to repay its loan and guarantee its growth.  Still, passenger or cargo, there is no magic to profit than sound management.

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