More than 30 years after abandonment, indications emerged on Tuesday that the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri standard gauge rail lines would start commercial operation in June 2018.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi who dropped the hint while inspecting the ongoing rail project in Warri, said the Federal Government had instructed that the project should be completed by the first quarter of 2018 as contained in the budget.
It would be recalled that the project was first awarded in 1987 and abandoned for over 30 years.
It was not clear if the abandonment followed the collapse of all the iron smelting companies the rail was designed to serve.
The Minister “There are two phases of the contracts; the first one was awarded in 1987. We have a directive from the Federal Government that we must complete the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line and it was put in this year budget”.
“By the end of December last year, we had disbursed some money to the contractors; Julius Berger and others to commence work, so we have come to see how far.
“We are constructing bridges too in order to reduce human contact who would try to cross the track because this is a speed lane and once it starts, it is going to be 120 to 150 km per hour since it is a standard gauge.
“If this contract was completed within the time it was awarded, Nigeria would have been the first country in Africa to have a standard gauge line.
“We need to get this place functioning and the directive of the Federal Government is, we should start and our target is that by June, commercial activities will resume,” he said.
While explaining that Julius Berger opted out of the project because it did not have equipment on ground after the Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail tracks was vandalized, he noted that the Itakpe-Ajaokuta track that was vandalised would be given to China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) because it has the facilities on ground to complete the project.