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Government seeks urgent design of rail link to seaports


[FILE PHOTO] Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi

Following the announcement of General Electric (GE) Consortium of USA to divest from transportation business, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has said the withdrawal from manufacturing of locomotive engines and coaches will not affect the $2.7 billion proposed concession of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).

The minister also enjoined the Project Implementation Technical Committee on Lagos-Ibadan Standard gauge railway line to submit a suitable design for standard gauge railway line linking the five major port terminals at Apapa.

Amaechi made the call while inspecting Apapa Bulk Terminal, Greenview Nigeria Limited Terminal, Eko Support Terminal, and ENL Consortium in Lagos.

He gave the Technical Committee two weeks to submit the design, adding that the project of standard gauge rail linking the port terminals to avoid quay apron.

While fielding questions from Journalists, the minister said that apart from GE, there are three other partners involved in the proposed concession.

He posited that with the exit of General Electric, one of the partners: Transnet will now assume the leading role, while A. P. Moller and Power China remain as partners.

Based on the initial agreement, General Electric was expected to supply 20 locomotive engines, and 200 coaches while Power China, A. P Moller and Transnet will provide logistics, evacuate containers, and maintain tracks respectively.

The four partners were also expected to manage the corporation for an interim period of one year, after which another agreement will be entered for the consortium to achieve the corporation’s narrow gauge railway line for a period of 30 years.

Amaechi, who inspected the port terminals, said if the tracks were laid near the waterfront it would be easy to offload and load containers and other bulky goods.

He averred that structures that impede on the right of way to link the port terminals with Standard gauge railway line would be demolished.

While reacting to the implication of G.E’s exit from the railway project, Chief Executive Officer, West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited, Henrii Nwanguma, said there is no controversy being the main contractor.

Nwanguma said: “I understand the thought of government, looking for a company with global reach and reputation in a way they can leverage the balance sheet of their company.”

He said any other company coming to take up the project would inquire what made other contractors pull out, as this raises the question of unattractive government policies.

On Transnet, Nwanguma said: “The company should have been a natural partner, but the backlash we would get from Nigeria is why NRC, an indigenous company went to meet a 100 per cent South African company?

“Why don’t we build the capacity of the Nigerian railway, which is what exactly Transnet is doing.”

According to him, Transnet is an integrated octopus, the company runs the port, roads, railway services, oil and gas pipelines. They also have the knowhow to execute the Nigerian railway projects.

He said Transnet is a good firm for the rail project in Nigeria and more qualified than GE perhaps because they make locomotives.

Nwanguma however stressed the need for government to revamp NRC’s capacity,

“I think NRC needs to be looked at again; structurally. I believe in separating the regulators from the railway transportation from the operator. I also believe in multiple operators. The NRC arrangement should be looked at.

“In the wisdom of government let them do what is necessary that would be in the best interest of the country. More importantly, we want railway to be the backbone of modern long haul transportation, if it is not done so, the roads will continue to bear the rot,” he said.

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