The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi says he is seeking the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for $3 billion loan to rehabilitate the existing Port-Harcourt/Maiduguri narrow gauge rail line.
Amaechi told journalists in Abuja that rehabilitating the already existing narrow gauge would ensure economic activities begin on the axis as against waiting to get a loan up to the tune of 12 billion dollars for the construction of a new standard gauge line.
According to him, “the President has earlier given approval earlier for the construction of the standard gauge, the seaports in Bonny and Port Harcourt industrial park. So, what we’ve done is we need approval again. If we start pursuing the money to construct Port Harcourt – Maiduguri now, in case of loan, we may not get the loan easily.
“So why not give us permission to do two things at the same time, while looking for the money for the standard gauge allow us to rehabilitate the narrow gauge, that is, yank off what we have now and replace them with new ones and that will cost us slightly below three billion dollars which is easy to get and extend it to Bonny.
“The people are willing to build the seaport and industrial park with their own money. But if you give us that approval we will source for that money. Two billion dollars, rebuild there won’t be patch line to Owerri okay and Abakiliki because we are just going to repeat the old track line. That is what is before the president and we submitted it last week waiting for his approval”.
Continuing, he added that “the President is a bit more determined that we construct a standard gauge. But if we continue to wait, we may not get the funds to construct the standard gauge now. I’m not saying we are not going to get it, see how long it took us to get 5.3 billion. It took us more than three years and you are asking for 12 billion dollars loan, it won’t be that easy.
“So, to us at the Ministry, we thought okay, why not at least rehabilitate the narrow gauge, remove the slippers, balance, tracks, replace them, rebuild the stations, extend to Damaturu in Yobe and extend to Bonny in Rivers state.
“While they are running at 80 kilometers per hour, don’t forget that the standard gauge is 120 kilometers per hour. In fact, the design is 150 killometers actual operation is 120 and the difference between 120 and 80 is just 40 which we can bear pending when we get the money for standard gauge.
“But don’t forget that the president’s argument is he wants standard gauge. We agreed with the president, we’re going to look for the money for the standard gauge pending when we get the money, the rehabilitation of the old one will facilitate trips.”