The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) on Sunday said it sympathised with train commuters going through pains and difficulties due to the shutdown of daily operations of train services on the existing narrow gauge from Ijoko in Ogun to Ebute Meta-Apapa in Lagos.
The NRC suspended the daily operations of train services in the axis on September 30.
The suspension became necessary to fast track the completion of the new standard gauge, which required shifting of the existing narrow gauge and relaying it to accommodate standard gauge rail line.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had on September 23, announced November as the deadline for the trial services on the about-to-be- completed Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line.
The Lagos District Manager of NRC, Jerry Oche, told newsmen that the corporation was not unconcerned about the difficulties many commuters were going through since the shutdown, urging them to be patient.
Mr Oche, who said that the shutdown would last till middle of November, disclosed that NRC management was working with the contractor, China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) to deliver the project as projected.
“Words cannot express how I feel about what the commuters are going through. Don’t forget, I always say that it is not much about how much we make, but the services we render to the majority of people.
“We bring succour and alleviate the suffering of thousands of Lagos residents. Now that we have shut down, I know a lot of people are having difficulties.
“But we are, however, working with the Chinese contractor to see that the project is fixed within the set time. We should achieve what we wanted to achieve within the set time,’’ Oche said.
He said that the district was also using the period of the shutdown to look inward and fix a lot of things, including the state of coaches and others.
“We want to see what improvement we can bring in by the time we are resuming. I really want to appeal to our passengers, without them for me, we are not complete.
“Whether we are moving hundred tonnes of goods or not, it does not matter; I am already missing the interactions we have on a daily basis,’’ he said.
The NRC boss, who noted that MTTS services remained the hope of many of the less privileged commuters, said that the new track, when completed, would also lower the accident rate.
Oche added: “The Chinese (contractor) has commended the removal of the narrow gauge and the whole idea is for them to shift the old narrow gauge and lay a new one.
“This is not just about completing the standard gauge, it is also about ensuring that we have a better narrow gauge.
“The project itself entails the removal of the existing narrow gauge in complete shift to accommodate the standard gauge.
“We are supposed to have two standard gauges and the narrow gauge beside it. You will notice a new narrow gauge around Agege, Iju and Agbado.
“All this while, because we were still running train services, the contractor had not been able to work on this axis.
“Now that the standard gauge itself has got to this axis, what is remaining is for them to work, do this part and then we will meet the minister’s directive of starting the trial of Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail operations.’’
He said that the standard gauge which had gotten to Iju from Ibadan needed to get to Apapa, which necessitated the stop of operations on narrow gauge, to lay the standard gauge.