The Nigerian Railway Corporation is 112 years old and it runs a unilaterally designed track system of 1067mm cape gauge. Only 30km of its track distribution is in double track and that is within Lagos area. Nigerian Railway System actually commenced rail business activities with the construction of the first rail line from Lagos to Ibadan (193km) between 1898 and 1901. By 1964 when the construction of 640km kano – Maiduguri rail line, then known as Bornu extension, was completed, the present core of the railway network had been put in place.
Presently, the Railway system is made up of 3’505 route kilometres and 4332 track kilometres. In addition to this is the 19km 1067mm gauge extension from Port-Harcourt to Onne deep sea port and the 277km standard gauge rail construction of 1435mm from Ajaokuta to Warri.
Nigerian Railway was transformed from its first and initial name ‘Government Department of Railways’ to NIGERIAN RAILWAY CORPORATION in 1955 through the instrumentality of the Statutory Act of Parliament which, apart from changing the name of the railway industry in Nigeria, equally conferred on it absolute monopoly as the institution recognised by law to carry out railway services.
The general aim and object of the statutory act of parliament of 1955 for Nigerian Railway is to recognize same as carrying out its function of effecting “carriage of passengers and goods in a manner that will offer full value for money; meet cost of operation; improve market share and quality of services; ensure safety of operations and maximum efficiency; meet social responsibility in a manner that will meet the requirements of rail users, trade, commerce, industry and general public”.
The Headquarters of the Corporation is located at Ebute-Metta in Lagos while the entire network is, for administrative conveniences, divided into seven autonomous districts viz: Lagos (Ebute-Metta Junction), West (Ibadan), North (Zaria), East (Enugu), North-West, (Minna), North-Central (Kafanchan) and North-East (Bauchi).
The Railway System has been undergoing some rehabilitation and modernization with the full political and financial support of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transport.
The rehabilitation of the Railway System includes track spot renewal of Lagos to Kano and Maiduguri to Port-Harcourt, supply of 25 new locomotive engines from Brazil South America to boost the existing motive power base of the Corporation, upgrading of the signaling and telecommunication system from manual to semi automatic, as well as rehabilitation of Carriage and Wagon Workshops, re-equipping the workshops, supply of service support (spare part consumables), strategic rebranding of the Corporation, rehabilitation of stations and marshalling yards, inter alia.
Equally, new railway lines are being constructed in standard gauge (1435mm). These include: Ajaokuta – Warri line of 277km; Kaduna – Abuja (Idu) line of 186 km while the scope of work for Lagos – Ibadan segment is under review together with its cost implications.
The Nigerian Railway, having completed its phases of rehabilitation of its vast assets, is expected to play an increasingly pivotal role in the economic and social developments of the country in this millennium. The NRC management has also imbibed corresponding quest for the challenges ahead by ensuring improved and efficient services to the freight owners and the teeming commuting publics with watermark measures in safety and operational performance.