John Cashin is the Chief Executive Officer of Metrorail Limited. He recently replied to some questions from Frank Kintum on the railway sector

What is your impression about the Nigerian railway system?

It seems the British originally built it from the late 1800s to suit their own needs at that time. It has remained primarily a Narrow Gauge rail system since the 1955 Nigerian Railway Corporation Act when it got its current name. Since 2012 NRC has restored and maintained regular scheduled passenger services between Lagos & Kano with a container dry port stop in Kaduna. Most recently NRC opened a new Standard Gauge rail line serving 5,000 daily passengers between Abuja & Kaduna.

Another Standard Gauge rail line servicing Warri Port-Ajaokuta Steel-Itakpe mines is set to open very soon with plans to extend it up to Abuja. Now government efforts are being made to begin construction of a new non-ballast Standard Gauge cement-based Heavy Rail Freight line beginning in Apapa Wharf up to the Ebute Metta NRC compound. So apparently there are definite moves to modernize the Nigerian Railway being made.

Are you impressed with the federal government efforts to revive railways in Nigeria?

Based on your 1st question answers and the ongoing Regulatory interactions I’ve had with the NRC & FMOT, yes.

What has been the involvement of MetroRail in the Nigeria railway system? According to current law the NRC is the actual government’s Rail Regulator for all involved in any of the nation’s rail activities regardless of technologies used. We must interact and engage with their officials and plan to interchange passengers activities with inter-modal hubs, stations, track obstacles, safety measures, etc. So we exchange info & update each other from time to time. As expected new developments in technology and methods concerning various forms of rail components constantly occur which leads each of us adapt our plans of action resulting in better services for all. Though my MetroRail company is not directly involved with the NRC Rail services since I’m working on a separate private sector urban Monorail train system project.

Beyond Nigeria, where else has MetroRail done railway project?

Members of our competent team have worked on various transportation and rail systems & technologies worldwide but MetoRail was registered only in Nigeria as a startup for the purpose to plan, build & operate a new comprehensive state-of-the-art automated elevated urban monorail system.

What is your view about the Chinese involvement in railway projects in Nigeria?

Some of the most advanced types of rail systems have been built in China with various partners & technologies developed in other countries of the world. At least in some cases here the Chinese are using their own money to develop the rail sector or under ongoing contracts. So with me not being privy to their inside business details, I say with prudence on rail projects in Nigeria something is much better than nothing. That being said the most long lasting efficient technological infrastructure should be deployed from now on by whomever.

What policies can Nigeria formulate to accelerate railway development?

Once the new Railway Bill [cited as the Nigerian Railway Corporation (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2008] is passed and signed the new guidelines in that Bill will activate the policies within it to do just that!

How long have you been in Nigeria and what is your view about the people and the country?

Quite some time because I’ve been working on this MonoRail Project for over 10 years. I love Nigeria (in English “Black Area”) and its people and many of us “Diaspora Afrikans” in the Americas have direct DNA links to many tribes here.

We hope with this project and subsequent others will develop and our own new modern “Wakanda” shall be created for centuries to come while rebuilding and maintaining our paradise!

What is the involvement of Nigerians in your company?

Metrorail is a Nigerian Registered Company and is currently Nigerian half owned. Shares are privately available to anyone approved by our Board. Once operations begin over 90% of the staff will be indigenes and other Afrikans for sure.

What challenges are your facing in Nigeria?

Many but we have hurled over most obstacles hoping just a few more local stakeholders come join in so its truly to be “Our” ideal project.

Are you getting the needed cooperation from the state governments you are working with?

Yes, finally!

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