The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Monday said the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri standard gauge rail lines would start commercial operation in June 2018.
Mr. Amaechi made this known this while inspecting the ongoing rail project in Warri.
He said that the federal government had instructed that the project must be completed by the first quarter of 2018, which was included in the budget.
The minister said that the project was first awarded in 1987 and abandoned for over 30 years which would have been the first standard gauge in Africa.
“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 contact with human beings 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 because 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.
He said that Julius Berger opted out of the project because it did not have equipment on ground after the Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail tracks was vandalised.
He said 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.
He further disclosed that Julius Berger would however handle the civil work to construct new yard, the 99 bridges, flyovers and refurbish the 178km yard in Agbor.
Inspecting the railway village in Agbor, the minister ordered that the village with about 420 houses should be handed back to the ministry due to poor maintenance.
He said that the ministry would hand over the village to Julius Berger for totally rehabilitation which could be rented to workers.
At the Abraka site, the minister directed the Team Nigeria Ltd., the project consultant to expand the bridges to accommodate two vehicles as the bridges constructed could only accommodate one vehicle.
However, David Imafidon, Julius Berger Site Engineer, said that with the level of work ongoing, the project could be completed within the speculated time.
He said that 99 bridges were to be constructed in the ongoing project with 12 rail stations to be constructed, adding that the overpasses to Agbor town were already completed.
Chiedu Nwazojie, the Consultant of Team Nigeria Ltd. said that the company would make all the adjustment indicated by the minister to expand the bridges to accommodate more vehicles.
He said that the June 2018 date given to them by the minister was feasible.
The News Agency of Nigeria correspondent on the entourage observed that the rail site had abandoned facilities such as the wagons, communication towers, locomotives workshop, rolling stock depot and clinic.
The rail site was constructed since 1994 but was not completed, while the Agbor, Abraka and Warri sites, the tracks and the environment were covered with thick vegetation.