By Femi Adesina
The Itakpe-Warri Rail Line runs from Itakpe in Kogi State, first to Ajaokuta, also in Kogi, and then across Kogi, Edo and Delta States, terminating in Warri, Delta State. It was conceived more than 30 years ago to connect Nigeria’s Iron Ore Mining and Steel Production belt (Iron Ore Mining Company in Itakpe, Ajaokuta Steel Company, and Delta Steel Company in Aladja, Warri), and also link it to the Warri Port
Most of the track laying was done under the Babangida Administration (he commissioned the Itakpe-Ajaokuta leg, and laid the foundation for the Ajaokuta-Warri leg) and then subsequently abandoned. There were efforts and moves to restart and complete it under subsequent administrations, but no real progress was made, until the Buhari Administration took over, and decided to prioritize it as part of the National Rail Modernisation Programme.
Work finally resumed onsite around August/September 2017, and has continued since then, focusing on
– the rehabilitation and modernization of the tracks already laid more than two decades ago (parts of it vandalised over the years);
– completion of track laying (the Ajaokuta-Warri stretch had apparently never been completed).
– construction of a modern Railway Village & Maintenance Yard in Agbor
– construction of passenger Stations (12 in total) between Itakpe and Warri. Station Towns include Igbanki, Agenebode, Uromi, Agbor, and Abraka.
The Line is now being envisioned as the Central Line of the National Standard Gauge Rail, complementing the other 3 lines planned:
Western Line – Lagos-Kano (Lagos-Ibadan leg currently under construction; Abuja-Kaduna spur line completed)
– Eastern Line – Port Harcourt-Maiduguri
– Coastal Line – Lagos-Calabar
The total length of the Itakpe-Warri line is about 327 km: about 50km between Itakpe and Ajaokuta, and 277km between Ajaokuta and Warri. There are future plans to extend it to Lokoja, and then to Abuja, where it will link up with the Abuja-Kaduna Rail. When this is done, it will mean that you can travel by standard gauge rail from the Niger Delta all the way into the heart of Northern Nigeria.
The Rail system is designed to run at speeds between 120 and 150km/hour, meaning that it will be possible to cut travel time between Warri and Lokoja by half.