The fear of running over herds of cattle was responsible for non-optimisation of the speed capacity of Abuja-Kaduna rail line, the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said.
According to the minister, the number of cows between Abuja to Kaduna are so many that its almost impossible for the rails to move faster than 90km/h without killing cows. He revealed that many cows were killed the last time the rail ran 100km/h
He said because the owners of the cows would come to the ministry to ask that it pay for cows the rail killed, he has therefore decided that the rail will run not above 90 kilometres per hour.
“We are doing 90km/h with Abuja to Kaduna, the reason we are doing 90km/h is that there are cows everywhere, and we don’t want to kill cows. The other day they tried 100 and they killed how many cows, and they said ‘you people should replace the cows you killed.
“From that day, I have said let us maintain the 90km/h; at 120km/h you get to Kaduna in one hour. You can work in Kaduna and live in Abuja. It was initially one, but now, we have done four locomotives with 14 coaches.”
Amaechi also lamented the challenges faced by the transport ministry.
“The reason why we want to go back to narrow gauge is that between Lagos and Kano, we have 30 million tonnes of cargo. Even if you do three rail lines, it cannot be enough.
“It took us 14 days to move coaches from Lagos to Abuja; every day we go and ask, how far, they say we are near Ogun state… 14 days.
“But if it were rail, the same day, it will get to Abuja. The kind of construction we are doing is 120 kilometres per hour (Km/h), it is a speed train.
The minister, however, revealed that the federal government is subsidising transportation, hence, its affordability both by the rich and poor.
“We are still under pressure to have more locomotives and more coaches because more people are now using the rail. But you know typical Nigerians, they like free things.”
“We spend N56million per locomotive, and we get N16millon. If we increase it, you will start abusing us, ‘we won’t vote for this people’. But you see, it is subsidised, so you big men, the government is subsidising you, that is why you should vote for us because you are sharing the money.
“At the end of the day, we lose every month N40million, in fact, it was worse initially because it was N600 per passenger and nearly N1,000 for business class.
“I was grateful because it was the passengers — both poor and rich — who said increase the price, increase the cost, but whatever it is, we have not been able to break even.”