Only one passenger turned up and made the historic trip from Ibadan to Lagos yesterday as the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge train started operation.
The newly introduced service, according to the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), provides fully air-conditioned train services in the Economy, Business and First Class categories.
The corporation deployed only one Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) to kick-start the operation.
Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi had announced a price regime of N3,000 for the Economy, N5,000 for the Business and N6,000 for First Class.
Nigerians had appealed for a reduction of the fares, which many saw as unaffordable for the masses.
Our correspondent gathered that the inaugural train service, which originated from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, left around 8.20 a.m and arrived Lagos at 10.40 a.m with less than five passengers on board.
No passenger was picked at Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
“We had one passenger from Ibadan to Lagos, and this is not unusual. The service is just commencing. I’m sure as time goes on, the patronage will improve. Don’t forget again that we are approaching Christmas and New Year when patronage is expected to drastically improve,” a source on the inaugural trip told The Nation yesterday.
The Railway District Manager for Lagos, Jerry Oche said: “The Lagos Ibadan standard gauge train affords members of the public the opportunity to leave Ibadan for Lagos at 8 a.m and return at 4 p.m the same day.”
The district manager confirmed that the journey time from Lagos to Ibadan is two and a half hours.
This, he said, “makes more sense, going by recent reports of traffic gridlock that has characterised Lagos-Ibadan road, due to ongoing road construction along that axis”.
Oche urged Nigerians to embrace the new service, which he described as a new dawn in railway modernisation.
The district manager added that all major rules and regulations guiding train operations, like the use of nose masks and hand-washing in compliance with COVID-19 protocols, must be observed.
The train left Lagos at 4.10 p.m for Ibadan with five passengers. The NRC said it would run one schedule of commercial service until patronage picks up.