President Muhammadu Buhari says the connection of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri eastern narrow gauge rail line to a new deep seaport in Bonny Island and Railway Industrial Park in Port Harcourt is meant to increase the viability of the line and boost transshipment of cargo and freight locally, across West Africa nations as well as the Continental Free Trade Area.
He stated this on Tuesday at the groundbreaking ceremony of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the 2,044km narrow gauge in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
President Buhari, who pPresided over the event virtually from the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the corridor would have new branch lines in Owerri and Damaturu, capitals of Imo and Yobe states respectively. He said, “The second and the third projects are the Bonny deep sea port and a Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt, that are to be constructed through direct investments by our Chinese partners and international financing agencies.
“The project is with the objective of resuscitating the once vibrant railway transportation in the Eastern railway corridor of the country.
“We are further expanding it to achieve contemporary demand for transport in the North East and Southern geopolitical zones of the country.”
The President also the project was designed “to link other standard gauge rail lines under construction through the provision of transshipment centres.”
According to him, the funding of the project is through a Chinese government loan of 85 per cent cost and the Federal Government’s contribution of 15 per cent as counterpart funding.
“These projects will serve transportation and supply chain network for domestic needs and export as well as support imports into the hinterland of the country through the new deep sea port in Bonny Island, Rivers State,” he said.
The President, who stated that the port was designed to be a regional and international transport hub, noted, “The Railway Industrial Park will have the capability for processing exports of raw materials with value addition and export of locally made goods.”
He said, “In planning this project, prudent use of resources has been given priority, as, by this endeavour, Nigeria will retrieve the old narrow gauge that has been lying in neglect for years and bring it to fully functional state commensurate to a national railway service at a rational price. “The country’s inspiration for nationwide transport infrastructure and railways is significantly enhanced by these three projects that were conceived to be integrated into their operations.
“The Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway will translate to reactivation of economic activities along the eastern corridor, which has been greatly affected by insurgent activities and serve as a stimulus for industry and trade.
“In addition, there will be further utilization of local contents and technology transfer, increase in internally generated revenue and would serve as a fulcrum for the achievement of the Federal Government planned Integrated Development Masterplan.”
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, described the project as part of the comprehensive plan for the revitalization, rehabilitation and expansion of the Nigerian railway network to meet up with the transport infrastructure needs of the country.
“The effort of government at the rehabilitation of this rail line in 2009 – 2012 did not achieve the desired outcome, partly due to inadequate funding and incompetence of some of the contractors employed. The rail line, therefore, remains unserviceable.
“The need for a functional rail line on this Eastern corridor persists and remain compelling as the supply chain for products and services on this corridor vanishes and articles and items such as petroleum products, iron and steel, minerals, livestock, and poultry products availability were reduced giving rise to the high cost and affecting the manufacturing and agro-allied industries.”
Amaechi said that the railway project would be co-financed with a loan from a syndicate of Chinese financiers totalling 85 per cent while the Federal Government would contribute 15 per cent of the project cost of $3.2bn.
According to him, the seaport and railway industrial park are expected to cost up to $700m.
The minister added that on completion, trains on the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri rail corridor would run at 60 – 80km per hour and 80 – 100km per hour for freight and passenger respectively.
The project when completed would transverse 13 states comprising Rivers, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, and Imo states as well as the northern states of Kaduna, Plateau, Gombe, Bauchi and Yobe among others.
In his goodwill message, Plateau state governor and chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, Simon Lalong, expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari, noting the rail line “will cover not only the North but major parts of the country.”
Minister of Labour and Employment, DrChris Ngige, wondered why ‘narrow’ was being used to describe the project, saying, “Some people say it is narrow. It is not narrow because it will take me to my village.”
Managing Director, China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC, Jason Zhang, pledged the readiness of the company to deliver the project on or before the completion timeline of 36 months.
The event was attended by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe and as well as Lai Mohammed, Godswill Akpabio, Ogbonnaya Onu, ministers of Information, Niger Delta Affairs and Science and Technology, respectively.
NRC develops framework for PPP, working with LASG for red line take-off
Nigerian Railway Corporation has developed a train track access framework to encourage Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the operation of effective train services in the country, Managing Director of the NRC, Fidet Okhiria, has said.
He also said the NRC had set up a team to work with the Lagos State Government to ensure smooth launch and effective running of the state government’s mass transit train called the Red Line.
He stated this during a press briefing held Wednesday at the NRC’s headquarters, Ebute Meta, Lagos.
He said that the establishment of train track access framework would enable third parties to use the track.
Okhiria said the framework would increase private sector participation and the usage of the trackers.
He said it would also improve inter-state business and passengers would pay lesser amount for carriage of goods from one point to another.
He said, “We have tendered the Train Track Access Framework to the Board of the NRC during our last meeting and we hope that the framework will be approved at the next board meeting.
“We have set up a team to work with the Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) to enable them to operate successfully.
“LAMATA had just received wagons for the Red Line and hopefully they will start operation by the first quarter of 2023.”
The state government some days took delivery of Talgo Series 8 trains acquired from Milwaukee for the Red Line with a promise that the first quarter delivery date for the train service remained sacrosant.
Okhiria also said on Wednesday that efforts were being made by the Federal Government to adequately secure trains’ passengers nationwide as well as address other industry issues.
He said the incident of March 28, 2022 impacted not just on the Abuja-Kaduna route but on all the train services nationwide but added that the confidence of Nigerians on train ride as the safest means of transportation was gradually being restored.
Train attack: FG loses N531m revenue in five months
The suspension of the Abuja-Kaduna train service within five months has cost the Nigerian Railway Corporation N531m in revenue loss, the Managing Director of the firm, Fidet Okhiria, has said.
He stated this in Lagos on Wednesday at a quarterly press briefing of the corporation.
He said the amount represented what could have been made through ticket sales for the standard gauge passenger train, which was attacked by terrorists about six months ago.
Since terrorists on March 28 attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train, killing eight people and abducting 62 passengers, it has not resumed operation.
Although many of those held hostage have been released in piecemeal, the Federal Government has said train service would not be restored on the route until all those still in captivity are released and adequate security measures put in place along the corridor.
Okhiria said, “We have lost N531m between March 28 when the train attack happened and August through the expected ticket sales on the suspended Abuja-Kaduna Train Service (AKTS).”
Although the NRC MD said the corporation had restored the damaged rolling stock and fixed the track, the train service would not resume without the safe release of the remaining passengers held hostage.
He said four railway workers were among those still being held captive.
He said, “We believe proper security measures should be put in place. Government has set up a committee to ensure maximum security for both train passengers and facilities during operation.
“The minister (of transportation) is leading the struggle for the safe release of those still in captivity. We could not go with force to ensure noone loses their life.”
Okhiria said the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge train was running four trips daily, just as the other regular train service including Warri-Itakpe line.
“Lagos-Ibadan train service has not stopped running one day. It operates four daily trips. The Itakpe-Warri line runs two trains a day,” he said.
Updated: No insurance cover for victims of Abuja-Kaduna train attack – NRC
Train passengers held captive by terrorists after the attack on Abuja-Kaduna rail will not receive any compensation from insurance company, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, has said.
He disclosed this on Wednesday at a press conference in Lagos, explaining that although the corporation had an insurance policy for both rolling stock and train passengers, it did not cover banditry and terrorism.
The terrorists had on March 28, attacked an Abuja-Kaduna-bound passenger train, killing eight people, injuring several others, while 62 of the passengers were abducted.
Many of those held hostage have been released in piecemeal.
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