By Chris Ochayi
THE Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar has assured that the nation’s railway sector would be fully resuscitated within the next twenty five years to enable Nigeria to compete favourably with the other countries of the world in the area of railway transportation.
Senator Umar who disclosed this while on the inspection tour of the ongoing construction of Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge, railway modernization project, said the government is developing a twenty five year plan that would ensure the fully resuscitation of the railway sector.
The project for the construction of the new Abuja-Kaduna railway was awarded to the China Civil and Engineering Construction Company, CCECC at a cost of $874,308,704, including consultancy work. The work has already started with the CCECC achieving over 68 kilometres of earthwork and building of culvert.
The Nigerian government had negotiated a loan of $500 million from the Chinese government at an interest rate of under 3%, which is to be repayable in 15 years.
According to the Minister, “we have about twenty five years plan to ensure that our railway system is well brought on board and fully resuscitated so that Nigeria can compete favourably in the railway transportation. Countries that have developed all over the world got to that level because of the presence of effective railway transportation system.
“It is part of the vision of Mr. President, eventually so that we should have in place a fast train where you can board your train from Lagos to Abuja in about three to four hours.
On whether the project will be completed under his regime following the frequent redeployment of ministers at the ministry, he said, you know, you remember that for decades, the railways have been in comatose. And this is the first time that the government has thought it wise to revisit the railways.
“And I think Mr. President deserves some commendations for thinking about resuscitating the railway sector. And I want to assure that Mr. President is very, very passionate about the railway. We have some fair provision in the 2011 budget for the railways and by 2012,
“We hope that we shall get something substantially in the budget so as to continue in the manner we are going. We have quite a number of rehabilitations work ongoing, the Lagos-Jebba has been completed
“Of course, there are problems here and there with the Jebba-Kano rehabilitations of the old rail line. We are going to address it shortly because I intend to undertake a visit to see for myself the constrains and challenges on that particular route”, he said.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of China Civil and Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, Mr. CAO Bao Gang assured that the Abuja-Kaduna rail line modernization projects would complete and delivered to Nigerians at the stipulated completion period.
According to him, “the rail line project from Abuja-Kaduna which is 186 kilometer, within three years and even before we can finish this project. We can deliver this project to Nigerian government, to Nigerian people.
Describing the project as vital to socio-economic development of Nigeria, Mr. Gang said, “if you know, this project is most important to Nigerian people for economic growth. Particularly, for developed country, the railway system is most important.
“After finishing this project, the trains can take passengers from Idu (Abuja-terminus) to Kaduna without spending one hour. For the cargo train, it has to use one and half hour.
But the cargo train can deliver at one time, at least, 800 tones of goods and for the passenger train, it can convey more than five thousand passengers at one trip.”
He said that the CCECC is already accessing the $500 million loan agreements sealed between the Federal Government and the Chinese government, which according to him, would boost the completion of the projects within the 36 months of the completion period.