A rail track expert, James Akpoviroro, says Nigeria looks good to witness a speedy transformation of its railway system if the Federal Government maintains its focus on the transport mode.
Akpoviroro also advocated the conversion of the old railway gauge to standard one rather than build new ones along the existing railway corridor to save money.
He said the nation should begin to give a serious thought to the maintenance of its new rail lines to ensure their sustainability and advised that local contractors and railway engineers be integrated into the ongoing and future railway projects.
Akpoviroro, who is the Managing Director of Jeerea Nigeria Limited, said in an interview in Lagos that the huge funds being invested in railway projects would be a waste if a sustainable maintenance system was not put in place.
He said, “Building the railway system is one thing; maintaining it is another thing entirely. Maintenance is key.
“The only way to keep the system going is for the government to integrate the indigenous railway experts into the whole railway transformation project.”
Although he acknowledged that it was right for the government to have secured the financial support of the Chinese government for some of the railway projects being handled by some Chinese firms, he added, “the Federal Government can insist that some sections of the projects should be given to the Nigerian people.
“This is aside from the fact that the government has the right to make them train railway workers in how to operate the system after delivery.”
Akpoviroro canvassed the conversion of the old railway gauge to standard along the existing railway corridor to save money.
He said, “Our narrow gauge can be changed to standard gauge. The Nigerian railway substantially operates narrow gauge, which was inherited from the colonial masters. Only the recently launched Abuja-Kaduna rail line and the yet to be completed Ajaokuta-Warri line are on standard gauge.
“You save money by converting the rail track from narrow gauge to standard gauge. The 1067mm, being used for the narrow gauge in Nigeria is archaic. Almost all countries have changed to standard gauge. Why spend so much money to revamp old gauge, which will be eventually abandoned? Why not just convert it to standard gauge and avoid double spending?
Akpoviroro said Nigeria could be a railway hub for West Africa and noted that the nation was ripe for underground railway.
He gave the experience of the London Railway, where he had worked for many years, adding that space should not be a contraint.