Stakeholders to Rotimi Amaechi: Reopen Railways Now
Stakeholders and industry players are disputing the decision of the Federal Ministry of Transportation not to reopen train operations across the country due to threats of covid-19 and further infections.
The Minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Amaechi had insisted that reopening railway now will boost the spread of the pandemic, declarng that for now rail transportation is off the table.
While most stakeholders appreciate the caution the minister is entertaining, they disagree with his conclusion that trains cannot open safely. The stakeholders are particularly worried that the minister is maintaining his stance against ongoing reopening of railway services all over the world under special conditionalities.
Some of the points raised to dispute the minister’s position by stakeholders are as follows:
1. If planes can fly, why can’t trains run? Left to his devices, it means no trains until there is a cure?
2. The argument about losses sounds rather puerile. Are they not piling losses now paying staff for no work done and for depreciating equipment parked in the sidings?
3. Essential workers/travellers also need to be moved and it is only by the limited lifting of restrictions that the economy can slowly be restarted. Elsewhere trains are running. All you need are appropriate protocols.
4. Hopefully the NRC director of operations was involved in the consultations with the Covid-19 task force. Otherwise you must just wonder at the technical and intellectual content of the exchanges.
5. It is not possible that they were making a profit before the onset of the pandemic. Perhaps he thinks diesel and some overheads are his only operational costs. What about the fixed costs, depreciation, the bureaucracy etc? Has he amortized his chinese loans?
6. All just goes to show that govt does not understand what it means to run a business.
Other stakeholders emphasised that there are international examples on how to reopen railways during the pandemic, citing examples of Europe, Asia and America.
” What the ministry should do is to create a stringent template with phased reopening ,starting with Abuja – Kaduna. There are best practices already in operation in several parts of the world. We should draw lessons from all countries already reopening and adapt it for our local peculiarities. We cannot shut down rail transport. The economy is dying” , Segun Olanjorin of African Railway Roundtable noted.
” We are in touch with passengers, business people. The Ministry should copy Aviation ministry and set conditions. “, he said.