Transport infrastructure wins are one of the most polarising achievements of President Buhari’s administration.
Despite boasting millions of dollars spent on several projects, from roads to bridges and rail lines, people can’t seem to make up their minds about this administration’s impact on transportation. On the one hand, some are elated with the pace of infrastructure, while others claim that the benefits of our transport investment are hard to see.
The Buhari administration has boasted of spending billions of dollars on transport infrastructure, particularly rail lines. Nigerians can see the results of these investments in three major inter-city rail lines—Lagos-Ibadan, Warri-Itakpe, and Abuja-Kaduna.
The benefits of train services should include cheaper transport costs, safer and quicker commute time. But they are lost on Nigerian train passengers who still pay more to travel by rail than by road and suffer almost the same safety risk as though they are commuting by road.
The government must work on incentives within its control to mitigate these risks. For instance, offering a 70-minute non-stopping intercity fast train for passengers who highly value time, e.g. business travellers, would allow trains to compete with private cars or buses that will take roughly 100 to 120 minutes.
But let’s focus on rail transportation. President Buhari’s recently released achievement fact sheet states that rail infrastructure has grown by at least 677 kilometres between 2016 and 2021. We’ve all seen the completion of the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge rail line after almost 30 years of its commencement. We also witnessed the completion of a new standard gauge railway between Ibadan and Lagos, including its extension to the Apapa Port. There’s also the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna railway line and the many ongoing railway projects throughout the country.
In past articles, we've lauded these projects and acknowledged the benefits of trains, including expanding local industries from agriculture to manufacturing, reducing travel time and fares, and improving government revenue. However, quantifying the benefits of rail and other infrastructure investments is challenging.