LAST year Nigerian Railways Corp took delivery of some spanking new 1067mm gauge rolling stock from China. There were 50 Class 2101 diesel locos rated at 2400hp, coaches that included air-conditioned first-class cars from Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock Works, a fleet of railbuses, plus 400 freight wagons. The package was worth around US$500m, and NRC had to put half of this up front.
We now hear most locos are no longer working and are stored in sidings awaiting spares and repairs. So apparently are the coaches, with no locos to haul them.
Poorer members of the population in Nigeria rely on trains for cheap travel, and it seems they have made their views known about the withdrawal of services in no uncertain terms. The protests have attracted sufficient attention for the Nigerian president to order an inquiry into the affair.
NRC’s problems are compounded by its inability to pay the new statutory minimum wage, prompting strike threats from the staff. Fuel shortages do nothing to keep the trains running - reports in December suggested that all four of the country’s oil refineries were out of action. Intending travellers would do well to heed the warning in the last edition of the Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable: ’All services liable to suspension.’