By Victor Graham
The Federal Government says contrary to insinuations by some Nigerians, narrow gauge rail lines were not inferior to the standard gauge lines.
Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.
The Minister who was reacting to allegations that the narrow gauge lines were inferior, sub-standard and outdated in other parts of the world, said the only difference between the two lines was speed.
Some Nigerians including Amaechi’s successor, Governor Nyesom Wike had accused the minister of recommending the narrow gauge to the federal government instead of the standard gauge to maximise the benefits of modern rail transportation.
But he explained that the Eastern rail line was going to have both the narrow and standard gauges, adding that the cost of the standard gauge, feasibility and time frame informed the choice.
The minister said it was cheaper to rehabilitate the narrow gauge, which would cost about $3.2 billion, and could be delivered within the approved time frame.
Amaechi said that the standard gauge lines was going to cost about $11 to 14 billion to construct, adding that getting the funds within the limited time was not feasible because of other projects awaiting funding.
“The standard gauge line is between $11 to 14 billion to construct on the Eastern flag, the standard gauge as designed in Nigeria is 150km design speed, operational speed is 120km; what is the difference between 120km and 100km? The narrow gauge is about $3.2 billion at 100km per hour.
“The standard gauge, which is at $11 to $14 billion, is 120km per hour. So if you take off with the standard gauge let’s say to Damaturu, you will arrive 20 minute before me that use the narrow gauge.
“The narrow gauge is cheaper at $3 billion against the $11 to $14 billion to construct the standard gauge. Why we did not get the approval for the narrow gauge on time was because the President’s insistence on the standard gauge from Port Harcourt-Maiduguri.
“My argument was if I can achieve the same length of rail with $3 billion why not take that first until when we get money, we can now go for the standard gauge.
“The difference made him approved the standard gauge as designed but until we get the money, because if we continue to wait until we get the $11 billion to &14 billion, we may not be able to construct the Eastern flag before we leave government,” Ameachi said.
On his part, the Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr Fidet Okhria, said that the narrow gauge line was not outdated or less efficient, stating that there should not be a comparison.
Okhiria said that Nigeria was the first African country to introduce standard gauge line, noting that South Africa and other African countries still use the narrow gauge lines.
He said: “South Africa, India and other countries are still using the narrow gauge lines introduced by their colonial masters, other African countries are still using what the colonial masters constructed.
“The Eastern rail line has both the standard and the narrow gauge lines to be constructed; the narrow gauge will be rehabilitated now because the fund is available but the reality of getting the $13 billion now to construct the standard gauge line is not feasible”.