RAILWAY INTERVIEW: “The development of the rail system will provide a cheaper, safer and more reliable means of transportation”

1.    Let’s start with some background on the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
The Nigerian Railway system is about 117 years old. Between 1898 and 1964 Nigeria had built a network of narrow gauge rail lines totaling 3,505 km.

 In 1986, the Federal Government commenced the construction of 326 km standard gauge line Phase –I- from Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri. However, for over two decades, the rail system became comatose up until 2009 when the government commenced implementation of a 25 year Strategic Vision to revive the sector.
The Federal Government in its determination to revive and modernize the railway System in line with the 25 year Strategic Vision, adopted a Systematic dual approach of implementation. This entails the rehabilitation of the entire existing narrow gauge lines simultaneously with the development of standard gauge lines. In February 2011, the construction of the 186.5km Abuja – Kaduna standard gauge line commenced and the line commissioned for train services in July, 2016.

It is interesting to note that Nigerian Railway Corporation is still operating based on the 1955 Railway Act. Presently, a bill on Nigerian Railway Authority is before the National Assembly.

2.    What does the railway modernization project entail?
As part of the modernisation programme, the government has provided funding for the full completion of the following standard gauge lines:
i.    Idu (Abuja) to Rigasa (Kaduna) line (186.5 Km)
ii.    Warri to Ajaokuta to Itakpe line (277 Km)

Feasibility studies have been completed on a number of new standard gauge lines while few others are nearing completion.

In furtherance of the Railway Modernisation Programme, the government has awarded contract for the construction of Lagos to Ibadan double track standard gauge lines. The construction work is to commence in March, 2017.

Other standard gauge lines planned to be awarded before the end of 2017 are:
i.    Kaduna to Kano line and
ii.    Calabar to Portharcourt line with addendum to construct a rail link to Onne Sea Port.

3.    How will the railway system influence transport and logistics operation?
The development of the rail system will provide a cheaper, safer and more reliable means of transportation. It will offer the economy a better alternative to road transportation of goods and heavy freight going to far destinations.

It will reduce:
-    Road traffic congestion.
-    Accidents and fatality rate on the road.

It will improve:
-    Distribution of Agricultural produce.
-    Movement of mineral resources
-    Employment generation (directly and indirectly)
-    Logistics value chain
-    Life span of road.

4. What about future plans?
In line with the Twenty Five (25) year Railway Strategic Vision, NRC has identified the following key areas for development through Public Private Partnership.  
-   Railway Services Concession: Supply and utilization of coaches and wagons; Provision of Warehousing and Logistics, rehabilitation of the existing Narrow Gauge track and construction of extension to link seaports, Airports, Inland Container Depots, Agric and Mining hub as may be considered necessary.
-    Railway Landed Property Development.
-    Construction of new Standard Gauge Track lines as identified in the 25 year Rail Strategic Plan part of which will link the seaports, airports and cargo terminals.

5. And a functional rail link to the seaport?
The planned concessioning of the Narrow Gauge line has requested that the concessionaire reactivate the existing rail track into the sea port.

6. How do you see the role of Multimodal West Africa?
To stimulate private sector interest in the development of other standard gauge green fields for which feasibility studies have been completed.

About Mr Timothy A Zalanga: he is the pioneer Director Corporate Planning. He is responsible for developing Strategic Plans and Policy for the Corporation as well as overseeing the Procurement, Research, Health, Safety, Environment and Information and Communications activities for the Corporation. He equally heads the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit of the Corporation.   Mr. Zalanga has over twenty five (25) years of experience in Information Technology (IT), Logistics, Supply Chain and Corporate Strategic Management. He started his career as Graduate Assistant with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi, from where he graduated. He later moved to AshakaCem PLC, a subsidiary of Lafarge as a Computer Analyst where he grew to become the first indigenous Head of the IT Department of the Company.