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Nigeria covers 923,768 kmē but there are still only 3505 route-km of railways, of which 1788 km are sharp curves. They are all single-track 1067-mm gauge with either steel or timber sleepers. A short 75-km standard-gauge section is under construction between Ajaokuta and Warri and there are plans to extend this line to the new capital of Abuja. By comparison, in 1992, there were 32,180 km of all-weather federal roads not including state and rural roads.

Concurrent with the progressive increase in the total length of all roads from about 72,000 km in 1962 to about 150,000 km in the mid 1980s, the number of airports increased from 2 in 1970 to 16 in 1990. By contrast, the length of railway network stayed constant at 3505 route-km over the last 100 years. For comparison, the Japanese railway network expanded progressively from 0 to about 27,000 km between 1872 and 1998.
These shocking statistics point out the urgent need to redesign, expand and renovate the Nigerian railway into an efficient nationwide network serving both industrial and agricultural zones and facilitating development of the cash-crop economy in the hinterlands as well. A similar far-sighted approach is needed for dealing with the traffic snarls and urban sprawl in the new industrial and commercial zones across Nigeria.
Figure 2 clearly shows the high disparity in rail coverage in each state and is another justification for private involvement in railway development.

the plummeting trend in passengers and freight on NRC resulting from operational problems. In 1983, NRC carried 15.11 million passengers, generating more than N29 million (80 naira = US$1), but the levels had nose-dived by 1993 to about 1.50 million passengers, generating less than N15 million. In 1993, NRC hauled only 106,000 tonnes of freight to earn N25. 84 million.
This disheartening downward trend, which reached an all-time low in 1993, was the result of government neglect—almost no government funds were released to the railways during this period. Operations were paralysed and NRC was forced to prune its workforce from 40,000 staff in 1984 to 23,800 in December 1992, but even this smaller number of staff was owed 9 months salary! The system was on the verge of total collapse, NRC properties depreciated greatly in value and some were vandalized beyond repair. This marked the beginning of the end of an effective railway network. Presently, NRC has a staff strength of about 14,000.


Major Operations Problems facing Railway Development

The problems are a multitude, but the most important ones are listed below:
Technical problems such as tight curves, steep gradients, rail buckling with associated track/speed limits
Poor communications
Government interference with management structure
Lack of freedom to set tariffs
Falling rolling stock levels
Plummeting traffic levels (freight and passenger)
Inflexible bureaucracy
Volatile and militant labour union
Irregular staff training
Worn-out infrastructure
Lack of maintenance


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