An International Consortium last Friday in Washington D.C, signed an agreement with the Federal Government to proceed with the interim phase of the Nigerian narrow-gauge railway concession.

A news report distributed by Africa Press Organisation (APO) Group on behalf of the General Electric (GE) indicated that the agreement followed the consortium’s award of preferred bidder status by the Federal Government of Nigeria in May last year

Initiated by General Electric, one of the world’s digital industrial companies, the Consortium comprised, SinoHydro, a leading infrastructure construction services corporation, Transnet, a leader in transportation and logistics infrastructure management and APM Terminals, a global port, terminal and intermodal inland services provider.

According to the deal, the interim phase of the rail concession – Remedial Works – will be carried out on part of the narrow-gauge rail line system to make it technically and economically operable.

In addition, a joint operation will be established between the Consortium and the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) with an initial supply of 10 locomotives and 200 wagons to augment the existing rolling stock in Nigeria.

According to the online medium, the programme is expected to deliver an increase in the number of available locomotives, thus increasing the frequency of passenger and freight rail services. In addition, freight haulage capacity by the end of the first 12 months of the interim phase is expected to increase roughly ten-fold, from its current less than 50,000 metric tonnes per annum to about 500,000 metric tonnes per annum.

The Chief Executive Ofiicer, GE Nigeria, Lazarus Angbazo,was quoted as saying at the occasion that: “GE is committed to the sustainable development of Nigeria and as such we are delighted to have reached this crucial stage of the project to revamp and revitalize the country’s legacy rail infrastructure system.

“The Consortium looks forward to commencing execution of this Interim Phase with the continued support of the Federal Government and the Ministry of Transportation. As operations begin, our strong partners, such as Transnet and SinoHydro, will bring their strong operating and development skills to the forefront”, Angbaso added.

Available information on the agreement provided by APO indicated that following the commencement of the Interim Phase, the Consortium would conclude negotiations with the Federal Government on the terms of the substantive phase of the concession agreement that will expand service to up to 200 locomotives and associated rolling stock.

This will see to the comprehensive rehabilitation of Nigeria’s narrow-gauge rail infrastructure and the return of rail transport as a key element in enabling the country’s socio-economic development.

The Chief Executive of Transnet International Holdings Mr Petrus Fusi, was also quoted as expressing his company’s delight “to be a partner in this ground-breaking concession and look forward to the successful execution of the Interim Phase with the government and the opportunity to add value.”

This is even as SinoHydro Chairman, Mr. Ding Zhengguo, said: “This announcement is a step closer to the opportunity to transform rail infrastructure and transportation logistics in Nigeria; a country with huge potential.” He added “We are very excited to partner with this resourceful consortium to deliver value.”

The Head of Terminals IMEA, David Skov, explained that APM Terminals had been actively investing and participating in Nigeria’s logistics infrastructure since 2006, and expressed happiness about his company being “a part of this project to improve access for the Nigerian hinterland to the global logistics chain.”

In his remarks, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, said that “this milestone project is an unprecedented commitment by the Federal Government of Nigeria, which, combined with the GE-led Consortium’s drive to modernizing Nigeria’s rail infrastructure, will add immense value to Nigeria’s long term economic growth and productivity.”

“This will be an important catalyst for small and medium enterprises and a key provider of almost incalculable socio-economic benefits for the many Nigerian towns and villages through which the rail network passes”, the minister added.