FG proposes $37.8bn for railway revitalisation

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*Amaechi

The minister of transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has said that the federal would spend $37.8 billion when the entire six national rail networks are fully on stream.

The minister disclosed this while speaking at the 2021 annual public lecture of the Department of Economics, the University of Lagos at the J.F Ade Ajayi Auditorium, on Friday.

Speaking on the topic: ‘The Nigeria’s national rail transport project: network, financing, challenges and the way forward’, Amaechi stated that of the $37.8 the government had only obtained $500 million loan with which it wrapped up the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge project.

Breaking down the project costs, the minister said while Lagos-Calabar, for which the government was seeking funding, would consume $11.5 billion, the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge which had been delivered cost $2 billion while the Ibadan -Kano would cost $5.3 billion.

Others are the Port Harcourt -Maiduguri narrow gauge, $3.3 billion; the standard gauge of the same route which President Muhammadu Buhari approved which funding is being sought $12.2 billion and the central line of Abuja-Itakpe to the sea, $3.9 billion.

However, the minister said although it was becoming increasingly difficult to access funds, without transportation there may not be any economy.

He said though he had got the presidential approval for the projects, none was yet to take off because of lack of funds.

Amaechi further said railway construction and operations have the potential to create employment and take millions of Nigerians out of poverty.

Besides, he said railway is a key factor in the growth of the nation’s gross domestic product.

The minister also stated that so much was being done to reposition the railway system and make it a catalyst for efficient logistics stressing that most of the constructions are driven purely by economic factors.

He said he would continue to resist political pressure in the siting of railway projects and construction of rail lines whether marrow or standard gauge.

Amaechi said railway is driven more by freight rather than passenger services adding that Nigeria does not have the economic activity to carry connecting many of the nation’s cities by standard gauge rail.

“Our total tonnage per annum is 30 million metric tonnes. This can be evacuated within a month by the Nigerian Railway. If Nigerians want better service, they should increase their production.

“In the same manner, if I discover increased and sustained demand for faster trains, I would not hesitate to provide it but right now, our activity can only adequately be catered for by a 150km of rail service,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said the NRC would be unbundled into three companies coming out of the present corporation.

While a company to be known as Infraco (Infrastructure Company) would be in charge of providing infrastructure especially the fixed assets, the NRC would evolve into an operations company, while the third company would be a purely commercial entity in charge of marketing operations of the railway activities.

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