The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, has confirmed that the Lagos-Kano and Calabar-Lagos rail lines, would gulp over $ 6 billion.
This railways include state-of-the-art train stations, digital signalling and communications systems, and high-speed trains.
Speaking exclusively with Thisday Newspaper, the Minister allayed fears that the multi-billion dollar project was not inflated.
He equally dismissed the comparison with Kenya’s new Madaraka express railway, which was equally funded by the Chinese, at the cost of $3.2 billion.
“What we are negotiating with the China Exim Bank, is to build railway projects that are much bigger, and this includes the stations, signals, electricity, and generators, dual locomotive engines, as well as coaches.
“I have even heard criticism saying that the cost of the projects are inflated, however, the Kenyan project is only 472km long, between Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa costing $3.2 billion.
“This comes to $7.5 million per km. Meanwhile, the Ibadan-Kano line is 1,500km long, while the Calabar-Lagos railway line is 1,550km, but will cost us $5.2 million per km to construct,” he said.
Amaechi added that the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan leg of the railway line, which will be extended to Kano, had already started, and was scheduled for completion by December 2018.
“As you know, the National Assembly approved the external borrowing component for the commencement of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge line. So the project has started and is scheduled for completion in December 2018, so that by January 2019, we can commence modern train services between Lagos and Ibadan,” Amaechi explained.
“We are building four large modern stations that will have shops and facilities for commuters to buy their tickets through e-channels. Two will be in Lagos – one in Apapa and the other at Ebute Metta – then one in Abeokuta and another one in Ibadan. Then we will have smaller stations en route to Abuja and other cities,” Amaechi said.
When reminded that the foreign loans Nigeria was taking for the projects were certain to add to the country’s external debt burden, and if the railway lines would be viable to repay the loans, the Minister explained that rail projects the world over, can hardly repay foreign loans.
“Railway projects that are funded through loans can hardly repay for the loans. But what the government is looking at is increased economic activities through major infrastructure projects that would enable it to generate more revenue to repay the loans.
“Lest you forget, the Lagos-Kano line will start from the Apapa ports; that is why a major station is being built in the port city and another one at Ebute Metta to replace the old Iddo Terminus. Now you can imagine what this can do for economic activities once the project is executed.
“We have made some progress in terms of negotiations and the Lagos-Ibadan line has started, so hopefully the National Assembly would approve the other aspects of the external borrowing plan so we can make progress with the Ibadan-Kano and Calabar-Lagos rail lines,” he said.
Amaechi further disclosed that the railway lines would ultimately be concessioned to private sector operators, to ensure that they are properly managed over a long period.
On the Abuja-Kaduna railway line, which was inaugurated by the Muhammadu Buhari administration last year, the Minister said new locomotives had arrived for the line, while new coaches were expected in October.
Also speaking on the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri-Aladja line, Amaechi recalled, that the railway project was initiated by the Ibrahim Babangida administration, to move iron-ore between the two steel plants in Ajaokuta, in Kogi State and Aladja, in Delta State, but it was never completed.
“We have now awarded the contract to complete and upgrade the narrow gauge line to include commuter services, so we are building 12 stations and 92 flyovers and bypasses. This is costing N80 billion to N100 billion and is about 310km long,” he said.