Nigeria relies heavily on private vehicle mobility than on public transportation which has led to serious road congestion, long travel times and environmental problems which require urgent resolution. To mitigate these problems, the Nigerian government is now focusing on the role of other modes of transport like heavy/light rails and Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT), amongst others to provide an alternative to private cars.
Australia Awards Alumna Bridget Dooshima Damjor who graduated with a Master of Engineering in Civil and Transport from the University of South Australia, is one of the role players who are changing the transport system in Nigeria. “My choice of study was influenced by my desire for an efficient land multimodal transport system for Nigeria with sufficient facilities for pedestrians including persons with disability”.
A professional civil engineer, Bridget works with the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMoT) in the Rail Transport Services Department. The department is responsible for providing safe, affordable, accessible and people-friendly heavy rail transport to ensure a seamless inter-modal transport system within the country and to neighboring countries in line with global best practices, and also creates an enabling environment for Public Private Partnerships.
The department has executed two narrow gauge railways in the past years and is currently constructing numerous standard gauge railway projects across the country. The recently completed Abuja (Idu) – Kaduna railway project is the first standard gauge railway in Nigeria and an integral part of the more extensive Lagos – Kano Rail Modernization Project.
“It is a remarkable achievement for the Government of Nigeria,” says Bridget.
The execution of the rail project was initially hampered because a concrete funding plan was not put in place. However, with a sustained funding plan through normal yearly budgetary allocation and concessionary loans from China EximBank, construction work began in February 2011. Bridget worked for four years (2010 – 2014) on the project as the Desk Officer prior to embarking on her Masters Program in Australia. “I resumed my duties on the Project on my return home, and by employing the valuable knowledge and skills gained from the Australia Awards Scholarship program, my contributions and results at work have greatly improved,” says Bridget.
The Abuja (Idu) – Kaduna railway was officially commissioned by the President of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari on the 26th of July, 2016, for commercial operations. Since then, Bridget says commercial operation activities are going on well. The new rail line is expected to significantly enhance the development of a multimodal transport system and provide a comfortable, affordable, accessible and safe transport system for both passengers and freight between Abuja (Federal Capital Territory), Niger State and Kaduna State.
“[The new rail line] will serve as a major catalyst for industrialization and generation of employment. I am glad to be part of the technical team that has attained this great achievement for my dear country. As Nigeria works towards the provision of an efficient multimodal transport system with sufficient facilities for persons with disability, we need the knowledge and resources to maintain the existing infrastructure and construct world class transport systems,” adds Bridget.