China on Tuesday advertised “the world’s first 600 kilometers per hour high-speed maglev train”, according to state newspaper People’s Daily.
Theoretically, it can travel from Lagos to Kano under 90 minutes.
However, China has no track line yet for the train, according to Chinese publication, Global Times.
“But some cities are planning to build high-speed maglev lines, and have entered the stage of research and demonstration,” the publication said earlier this week.
Chinese news agency Xinhua said it was “self-developed” by Chinese company China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC).
The Asian economic giant is touting the technology as its “latest scientific and technological advancement in the field of rail transit”.
The train is built on maglev technology, a system of train transportation that uses two sets of magnets, one set to repel and push the train up off the track and the other for movement, taking advantage of the lack of friction.
Maglev technology was conceptualised in early 20th century and has since undergone numerous improvements.
According to a CRRC engineer, Liang Jianying, the train being unveiled works by being suspended, driven and guided without contact between the train and the track by means of electromagnetic force, with its resistance only coming from the air.
The Federal Government is set to go hard on railway vandals as it has recommended charging the culprits for manslaughter.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, who gave this recommendation during the weekly ministerial media briefing at the statehouse on Friday, argued that stricter enforcement of the law on vandalism would bring to a halt frequent theft of rail tracks and the consequent loss of lives.
Meanwhile, the transport minister further announced that Nigeria and China have signed a contract to locally manufacture train coaches in five years.
He said an agreement has also been signed for the Chinese to build a factory that would be commissioned by December 2021 as well as a university in Daura, Katsina state to help localize railway technology.
According to the minister, 300 Nigerians have currently been sponsored to understudy rail technology in China.
He further disclosed that the Kaduna – Kano railway is billed to be flagged off in two weeks while vowing that the Lekki Deep Seaport will be completed before the end of the current administration.
The Nigeria Police had last week, arraigned suspected railway vandals at the Federal High Court sitting in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.
While 18 out of the 30 suspects appeared in court, Justice Nehizena Afolabi adjourned the trial to July 7 for hearing and ordered that all suspects appear on the next date.
The police charged the suspects for conspiracy, economic sabotage, and terrorism while the lawyer of the Chinese national is charged for aiding, facilitating, and abetment of terrorism for offering a bribe to the police to aid the escape of his client.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has revealed that the rail projects embarked upon by the state government will gulp over ₦100 billion.
He disclosed this during an interview on Sunday Politics, a political programme which aired on Channels Television on Sunday.
“It is a lot of money, it is well over N100 billion,” he said in reaction to the cost of the rail projects being constructed by the state government.
“I don’t criticise my predecessors but indeed for whatever planning or reasons, he never funded it. When we came back last two years, the contractor has since moved from about 55 per cent to about 93 per cent in terms of the physical construction of phase 1.”
The governor also accused the administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) didn’t give the state government the right of way for the construction of the light rail.
Speaking further, Governor Sanwo-Olu said residents of the state should expect the rail project delivered by the last quarter of 2022.
He also spoke on water transportation in the nation’s commercial capital, noting that his administration has targeted a daily movement of 70,000 passengers.
Sanwo-Olu’s remarks come three days after he flagged off the ‘red line’ rail project which, when completed, has the capacity to commute at least one million persons daily.
During the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction, the governor explained that the 37-km Rail Mass Transit will traverse from Agbado to Marina, noting that it would become operational by the last quarter of 2022.
“Since efficient transportation is the backbone of any economy, we are happy to be committing this investment in our transport infrastructure, so that our people can meet their daily targets and aspirations,” the governor said during the event held at the proposed site of the Ikeja Train Station.
“This all-important transport project we are all gathered to witness today represents a major step in this direction.”
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said the Federal Government requires the sum of $656 million to complete work on the Lagos-Ibadan railway project.
Amaechi disclosed this on Friday while defending his ministry’s 2021 budget at the Senate.
He explained that the amount is needed to put the necessary infrastructure in place for the project to serve its intended purpose.
“Some aspects of works involving the construction of upgraded railway station, signalling and telecommunication systems, power supply scheme and the construction of pedestrian and overpass bridges have to be completed,” he said.
“These additional and extra works amounting to $656 million which is to be financed 100 percent by the Federal Government of Nigeria has been approved by the Federal Executive Council for implementation.”
The Minister also told the lawmakers that the construction of the project is 92 percent close to completion.
He however lamented that the work was disrupted following the #EndSARS protests that shook most parts of the country.
Amaechi noted that the Ibadan-Kano railway project also required an injection of $645.3million as advance payment to enable the Federal Government to complete its loan signing agreement with the China Exim Bank.
According to him, the Ministry would commence the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge railways in 2021.
Britain’s privatised railway sector that drove the Industrial Revolution and was rescued by the state in March owing to coronavirus-ravaged demand, faces a major overhaul under government plans unveiled Monday.
While UK train services will continue to be run mainly by private companies, the franchising system will be replaced by Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMA) as the virus derails demand, the government said.
The Department for Transport said it would continue to cover losses suffered by private rail operators over the next 18 months, extending a system begun following the start of the virus outbreak in Britain.
“Ministers today ended rail franchising after 24 years as the first step in bringing Britain’s fragmented network back together,” the DfT said in a statement.
“The new system will create a simpler, more effective structure and will take shape over the coming months.”
The franchising system has been long-criticised by passenger groups, who accuse private companies of charging excessive fares for regularly-delayed train services despite earning large state-subsidies.
Despite long-standing government help, the taxpayer has in recent years been forced to take over several franchises that ran into financial trouble, such as Northern Trains and London North Eastern Railway.
– ‘No longer working’ –
With Covid-19 decimating passenger demand, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has already paid out a reported £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion, 3.8 billion euros) to support private rail operators.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps indicated Monday said that the privatised rail model was not working in the current climate, as many commuters choose to work at home and travellers cancel their plans.
“The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working,” Shapps said.
The new system will keep the best elements of the private sector but add better direction and accountability, he insisted.
And the DfT warned: “Until passenger numbers return, significant taxpayer support will still be needed.”
Rail operators will still be paid management fees for running services under the ERMA system — but these will be lower than under emergency measures that were implemented in March.
Keith Williams, a former British Airways boss commissioned by the government to review the sector, welcomed the new strategy.
“These new agreements represent the end of the complicated franchising system, demand more from the expertise and skills of the private sector, and ensure passengers return to a more punctual and co-ordinated railway,” he said.
However, trade unions slammed the move, which is the first major sector-wide overhaul since the Conservatives privatised British Rail in the mid-1990s.
“This announcement should now force the government’s hand and lead them to face up to what has been staring them in the face for the best part of three decades,” said Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash.
“Public ownership is the only model that works and can steer us through a crisis such as Covid-19,” he added.
Lawmaker Tan Dhesi, rail spokesman for the opposition Labour party, argued it was “completely unacceptable” that taxpayers continue to pay “hundreds of millions of pounds” in management fees to private rail companies — and urged the government to bring all rail services back into public ownership.
A heated argument ensued on Monday between the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Agreements and Protocols, Nicholas Ossai.
The committee is investigating the $500billion loan agreement between Nigeria and China for the Federal Government’s rail projects.
While the public hearing was ongoing, Amaechi said Nigeria was very unlikely to get the remaining loans from China because of the investigations being carried out by the House.
He accused the Committee of pursuing a political agenda, alleging that Ossai had approached him on the South-South Rail Project.
Following the increasing rise in Amaechi’s tone, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, stormed the venue of the hearing and called for a 30-minute break.
The minister was later discharged and asked to reappear before the lawmakers on Tuesday at 12 noon.
This is the second time the Minister would be summoned before the Committee over the foreign loan meant for railway projects.
On July 29, he appealed to the National Assembly to halt its probe of the 500 million dollars loan from the Chinese government.
Amaechi warned that the loan which is meant for the completion of the Federal Government’s rail projects may be truncated by the Chinese government if it suspects that there is a disagreement between the executive and the legislature.
He also argued that constant probing or investigation may suggest that an arm of the government does not agree with the loan and may cause the Chinese government to withdraw it.
Amaechi noted that while the lawmakers have the powers to conduct such a probe, he begged them to do so after Nigeria has obtained the loan to prevent the proposed projects from suffering a setback.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has appeared before the House of Representatives Public Hearing on Treaties and Protocols.
Speaking during the hearing in Abuja on Monday, Amaechi disagreed with the committee, saying he is unaware of a N33 billion contract by the Ministry of Transport but only a $1.6 billion contract.
He said the action of the committee is political.
The minister who appeared before the committee for a second time maintained his position that Nigeria is now very unlikely to get the remaining loans from China due to the investigations being carried out by the House.
According to him, the committee probe suggested that the different arms of government do no support the loan.
The committee is also interested in the number of Nigerians and Chinese involved in the Federal Government rail project.
Amaechi’s comments come three weeks after he begged the lawmakers to halt its probe of the 500 million dollars loan from the Chinese government.
He warned that the loan which is meant for the completion of the Federal Government’s rail projects may be truncated by the Chinese government if it suspects that there is a disagreement between the executive and the legislature.
While noting the lawmakers have the powers to conduct such a probe, he appealed to them to do so after Nigeria has obtained the loan to prevent the proposed projects from suffering a setback.
“The investigation being carried out by the National Assembly may frustrate the loan agreement between us and China on the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail project.
“We have the approval to construct the Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar rail lines; we are also at the point of negotiating for the loans.”
“Summoning us to the National Assembly to come and address the loans would look like the government is no longer interested in the loan,” the minister said.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has warned Nigerians to always wear nose masks and have sanitisers.
Speaking during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Amaechi said he is “dead scared” as he knows people who have died from the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister, who appeared at the regular PTF briefing for the first time, held up a sanitiser during his speech.
According to him, the Federal Government will ensure that travellers using the nation’s railway system must always use their face masks and hold their sanitisers as well.
Amaechi explained that he opened the railway from Abuja to Kaduna because of pressure for the Sallah holiday, stressing no masks, no boarding.
“If anybody has ever seen me in public without this (referring to the Santiser), let the person raise up his hand. The reason is that I have seen people die of COVID-19, so I am dead scared.
“If you ask the last speaker, I refused to agree that we should open the railways. It is the pressure of those who want to participate in the forthcoming spiritual activities that made me accept that we will open the railway from Abuja to Kaduna.
“We don’t want to see how handsome or beautiful you are. Please wear for me a face mask, not a mouth mask. If you wear a mouth mask, the train will stop and you will come down.”
Speaking further, the Minister explained that security has been beefed ahead of the Sallah celebrations in a few days’ time.
He, however, insisted that any traveller that wears a face shield without a face mask will be denied entry into the railway.
The Senate has called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, commence rehabilitation of the Eastern rail line.
This was even as the upper chamber mandated its Committee on Land Transport to interface with the relevant Ministry and agency.
These formed parts of resolutions reached during plenary on Tuesday sequel to the consideration of a motion sponsored by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC – Abia North).
In his presentation, Senator Kalu noted that one of the greatest challenges facing the nation as an emerging economy is poor infrastructural development, adding that, “the movement of goods and persons from one point to another is becoming very cumbersome, if not hazardous.”
According to him, the Federal Government in recognition of the fact that there is a dire need for transformation of the Nigerian Railway system into a more dynamic and functional one, encouraged the use of rail to reduce road traffic congestion problems and open up the sector to private sector investment.
“The Federal Government in 2017 entered into an agreement with General Electric, a Boston, United States-based company, under the Rehabilitation and the Concessioning of Western and Eastern Railway lines to connect Abia, Rivers, Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Kaduna, Katsina, Enugu, Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, Borno, Yobe and Kano States.
“And while the Western lines of 1,126 km are from Lagos to Kano and to Nguru 230 km, Funtua, and Kaura Namoda 121 km. The Eastern lines are from Port Harcourt to Kaduna 915 km, Maiduguri 706 km, 105 35 km,” he said.
Kalu lamented that “the Federal Executive Council is yet to give approval for the commencement which leaves not just the government as losers but all host communities to the rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.”
He also expressed concerns that the non-existence of an airport or inland port in the whole of Abia State, with its high volume of commercial activities, poses a serious hindrance to the export and import of goods.
Reacting to Senator Kalu’s concerns, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, directed the Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance by the Federal Government and report back in three weeks for further legislative action.
India has opened up its vast railway sector to private companies, allowing firms to operate trains on certain routes, in a bid to boost its stuttering, virus-hit economy.
The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily but is plagued by deadly accidents, rickety infrastructure, lack of modern amenities and poor investment.
In an announcement late Wednesday, the railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes, inviting bids from firms weeks after New Delhi opened up coal mining to the private sector.
“This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers,” it added.
The project will require an investment of $4 billion and private players will have to pay the government fixed haul charges and a percentage of profits determined during the bidding process.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to privatise a range of industries that have been under state control for decades, sparking criticism from the opposition Congress party.
“Now the government is in a desperate mood to sell a great chunk of one of our largest national asset #IndianRailways,” Congress politician Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury tweeted.
“Privatization cannot be construed as a panacea of railways malady”, he added.
The tottering network is notorious for accidents, with 15,000 passengers killed every year according to a 2012 government report that described the deaths as a “massacre”.
Asia’s third-largest economy has been clobbered by the pandemic and a months-long lockdown, growing at its slowest pace in at least two decades last quarter.
The shutdown, which put millions out of work overnight, is widely expected to plunge the country into recession.
Fears for the economy prompted the government to allow many businesses to resume operations starting last month despite an ongoing increase in infections, which have now crossed 600,000.
Even before Modi announced the lockdown in late March, the economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and a flurry of bad loans making banks reluctant to lend.