Nigeria launches railroad project connecting its 2 major southern and northern cities

Nigeria has rebuilt railroad tracks connecting Lagos, its commercial heartbeat in the south, to Kano, the largest city in the north, in a bid to revive the railways of Africa's most populous country.

Minister of Transport Idris Umar said at Lagos' Ebute-Metta Terminus Friday that the new Lagos-Kano route would boost the economy.

Tracks connecting the cities, 720 miles (1,160 kilometers) apart, were first built in 1912. But neglect, and corruption, meant that 70 percent of the tracks were unusable as of early last year.

Trains offer affordable transportation but Nigeria's long-distance passengers travel in difficult conditions.

A car of the inaugural Kano-bound train was packed, with people struggling for seating space and cool air.

Michael Olaoluwa Peters, 36, said "if not for poverty, I would have taken the bus."