Amid arguments in some quarters that the Narrow gauge lines were inferior to the Standard gauge rail lines, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said that nothing could be further from the truth.
According to the minister in a statement on Sunday through his media assistant, Taiye Elebiyo-Edeni , the only difference between the two lines was the speed.
Amaechi said that the Eastern rail will have both the Narrow Gauge and the Standard Gauge as it stands now.
He, however, noted that due to the cost of the standard gauge and what is feasible to embark on based on the time frame, it was cheaper to rehabilitate the Narrow Gauge which was about $3.2billion dollars.
This is more so that the narrow gauge can be delivered within the approved time frame.
Amaechi said that the Standard Gauge lines was going to cost about $11 to 14billion dollars to construct, adding that getting the funds within the limited time was not feasible because of other projects awaiting funding.
“The Standard Gauge line is between $11 to 14billion dollars to construct on the Eastern flag, the standard gauge as designed in Nigeria is 150km design speed, operational speed is 120km, what is the difference between 120km and 100km? The Narrow Gauge is about $3.2billion dollars at 100km Per hour.
“The Standard Gauge which is at $11 to $14billion dollars, is 120km Per hour, so if you take off with the standard gauge let say to Damaturu, you will arrive 20minute before me that use the Narrow Gauge.
“The Narrow Gauge is cheaper $3billion against the $11 to 14billion dollar to construct the standard gauge. Why we did not get the approval for the Narrow Gauge on time was because the President insisted on the standard gauge from Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, my argument was if I can achieve the same length of rail with $3billion dollars why not take that first until when we get money, we can now go for the standard gauge.
“Which made him approve the standard gauge as designed but until we get the money because if we continue to wait until we get the $11bn to 14billion dollars, we may not be able to construct the Eastern flag before we leave government.”
However, Fidet Okhria, Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) said that the Narrow gauge line was not outdated or less efficient stating that there should not be a comparison.
He said that Nigeria was the first African country to introduce standard gauge line, stating that South Africa and other Africa countries still use the Narrow Gauge lines.
“In the whole of Africa, Nigeria is the only country that has introduced a Standard gauge line, South Africa, India and other countries are still using the Narrow Guage line introduced by their colonial masters, other Africa countries are still using what the colonial master constructed.
“The Eastern rail line has both the standard and the Narrow Gauge lines to be constructed, the Narrow Gauge will be rehabilitated now because the fund is available but the reality of getting the $13billion dollars now to construct the standard gauge line is not feasible.
“So, the Narrow Gauge is not inferior in anyway, the difference is in the speed and it cannot carry more load like the Standard Gauge because the Standard Gauge is wider while the Narrow Gauge is narrower which doesn’t make it less effective than the standard gauge.
“About the cost, there should be no comparison with the cost because one is $13billion dollars while the other is about $3.2billion dollars, $10billion difference”, he stated.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Baba-kobi, Director Rail and Transport Services, Federal Ministry of Transportation, said that the difference between the Narrow and the Standard Gauge rail lines is the width within the inner edge of the track which is called the Gauge.
The engineer said that the Narrow Gauge in Nigeria is about 1067mm which is about 3ft, in some countries its 600mm which is 2ft while the standard gauge is 1437mm which is a little bit more than 4ft, noting that they are other Gauge like the Broad Gauge with 1670mm and the 2000mm Gauge with a wider distance.
Baba-Kobi, however said that the use of any of the Gauge is by choice not necessarily the cost, noting that places with hilly and curve terrain like Port Harcourt-Maiduguri corridor, the Narrow Gauge would be best because its easy to negotiate curves and its lighter.
“The choice of one or the other relies on certain factors, either you put the standard or Narrow Gauge, you will still have an efficient and functional trains, it just depends on your operational planning, it depends on where you want to take your train to.
“But technically, in most places where you have hilly roads that you have to negotiate into valleys, hills and places with curves, the best in terms of Engineering for that terrain is the Narrow Gauge because it’s lighter, easy to navigate curves that are smaller and the engine can easily thrives.
“Talking on the speed, it depends on how the locomotives is powered, Narrow Gauge doesn’t mean it’s inferior, just a choice that you make purely from the kind of terrain you are passing through even some places Narrow Gauge is more expensive than the Standard Gauge,” he said.
According to him, looking at the terrain of the Eastern
rail line because of the hills and curves, the Narrow Gauge is the best aside the cost”.