THE NIGERIAN RAILWAY SYSTEM

The Nigerian railways were initially worked and constructed by the colonial power, Great Britain.The primary reason for constructing the railways in Nigeria was to open up the hinterland for the exploitation of agricultural and mineral resources, as well as a better way of consolidating power in the newly acquired territory. In fact, the motive for constructing the railway was partly administrative, in order to provide a link between the northern and southern parts of Nigeria, and partly economic, so as to enhance the evacuation of mineral resources and agricultural products from the hinterland to the seaports, for onward shipment to overseas markets in Europe.

Over the years, Railway system has played a key role in the movement of goods and passengers in Nigeria.It has relative importance in terms of investment, growth and contribution to the national economy even though currently it has been neglected.

The major users of railway services are the manufacturing companies producing goods like wheat, flour, cement, beverages, the oil companies moving petroleum products from one part of the country to another and marketing companies. Others are construction companies and importers/exporters.

However, the services of the railway is been handled by the Nigerian Railway Corporation  (NRC).

RAILWAY AND ITS SYSTEMS

The Railway system aims at:

1.         Transportation or mobility:

Transportation is an act of moving people, goods and services from point of origin to point of destination safely. Thus the railway (trains) contributes to a major part of this logistics. It helps reducing the overuse of the road, air and marine transport, thereby reducing the wear and tear of infrastructure in other transport sector in Nigeria.

2.         Creating Employment:

A vibrant railway sector creates employment (jobs) to core professionals who are unemployed and are seeking so eagerly for jobs. Below are some of the employment opportunities the railway sector could absorb.

•           Engineering/Mechanical Engineers

•           Accountants

•           Marketers (help in the sale of tickets)

•           Security

3.         Generating Revenue:

The railway sector is one that, if it’s been efficiently managed by core professionals who give in their best for the growth of the railway, in the long run could serve as a source that generates revenue on a daily basis.

THE IMPORTANCE FOR RAILWAY SERVICES

Rail transportation is widely accepted as one of the affordable and safe mass transit and bulk movement system. Generally, rail transportation provides the following benefits:

•           Bulk movement of goods at a low cost per ton/km

•           Rail service is environmentally friendly

•           It is cheap and safe

•           It requires relatively less energy and low fuel consumption

•           Rail transportation is less susceptible to weather conditions

NRC

Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) is the state-owned enterprise with exclusive rights to operate railways in Nigeria.

It however became an autonomous public corporation created by an Act of parliament, with the general objectives of; carriage of passengers and goods in the manner that will offer full value and quality of service, ensure safety of operations and maximum efficiency, meet social responsibility in a manner that will meet the requirements of rail users, trade, commerce and the general public.

SERVICES PROVIDED BY NRC

NRC provides the following services:

1.         Passenger Services. These include:

•           Express trains for long distance travel

  • Commuters for intra-city movement of workers, traders, students to and from their various places of engagements

2.         Freight Services. These include:

•           Covered Wagons suitable for loading dry goods such as cement and general merchandise.

•           Open Wagons suitable for loading dry goods such as cars, billets.

3.         Workshop Services. These include:

•           Maintenance of locomotives and rolling Stock;

•           Foundry services-bricks making and carpentry

The problems of railway

Relating the scope of the objectives of rail transportation to the realities of the Nigerian situation, it stands out clearly that Railway operations are beleaguered with a lot of problems. Most prominent of these problems is that of inadequate financing by the government to cope with the social and economic objectives for which it was established.

Other problems of the railway are inadequate rail network to reach major cities, abandonment of developmental projects, over-aged and inadequate locomotives and rolling stock, low speed and frequent derailments, maintenance of un-profitable routes, huge wage and pension bills, tracks characterized by worn out rails, steep gradients, and sharp curves

Way forward for the Nigerian Railway

  1. Improved Funding for both government and private bodies :

In the short run, the financial situation of the NRC has to be drastically improved through better and sustained funding through various sources including internally generated revenue.

  • Enactment of the Railway Act

There is no doubt that a Railway Act that meets the current reality of the country is long overdue. The inability of implementing a new Railway Act is considerably preventing interested stakeholders apart from the NRC from participating in running a system that is archaic and in need a new lease of life by way of additional funds from other stakeholders, including state governments, private investors and concessionaires.

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