In late December 2023, a family of six boarded the Ibadan-bound train at Lagos’s Mobolaji Johnson Station, enveloped in Yuletide anticipation. Adeniyi Salaudeen, the family’s head, shared past Christmas stories with admiration for the modest coach. Wide-eyed with excitement, the children peered out the window, eager for glimpses of the passing landscape.
“I’ve had this experience before, going through the train.
“I really enjoyed the trip,” Salaudeen expressed during an interview. The Chinese-built Lagos-Ibadan railway, a key project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), officially started full commercial operation in 2021. Constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), it connects Lagos, Abeokuta, and Ibadan, marking West Africa’s first double-track standard-gauge railway.
Inaugurated in 2016, the Abuja-Kaduna corridor has been a lifeline for citizens, especially during the festive season. Nigeria grapples with 28.2 percent inflation, making transportation unaffordable for many. Heightened insecurity adds to road travel challenges, prompting passengers to find solace in Chinese-built trains.
“With the cost of air travel skyrocketing, the train service offers an affordable and secure means of transportation, bridging the gap for those who would have otherwise been unable to travel back home,” shared Omotola Fayehun, a passenger utilizing the Abuja-Kaduna train service.
Fayehun, a secondary school administrator, praised the Chinese-built rail services as a secure and affordable alternative for Nigerians reuniting with families during festive periods. The train services, featuring standard, business, and executive classes, cater to all classes of people.
Air-conditioned coaches boast overhead television screens, clean and well-equipped toilets, electric sockets, and USB charging ports. The attentive crew, including nurses and security personnel, ensures passenger safety.
During a recent trip to Ibadan before New Year celebrations, elderly passengers in the business-class compartment shared stories, reflecting on decades of travel experiences. Ninety-year-old Pa Makanjuola Azeez, filled with joy, anticipated reuniting with his grandchildren in Abeokuta.
“When I was younger, I was a regular user of the train between Abeokuta and Lagos. Presently, the road service was really very poor due to bad roads,” said Pa Azeez, emphasizing the superb and encouraging train service for leisure trips.
Michael Egbo, an Abeokuta-based businessman, lauded the convenience and security of the train, promoting tourism and trade. Recalling past risky road adventures, Egbo highlighted the train’s appeal for family vacations.
“I have been using the train service for a while, but I wanted my children to have the experience. It is a family vacation. The journey is smooth, hassle-free, and fast,” he added.