• October 22, 2020
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RAIL BUSINESS MAGAZINE Thursday, 22 October 2020

By Rowland Ataguba

There is much to cheer in this news announced by the Minister as one familiar with the difficulties with the first 35km of that corridor.

With over 400 issues of buried services, installations and encroachments on the right of way, you need the resolve of an Amaechi to drive through the resolution.

He even got the army to pack out of their ordinance depot at Ebute Metta and relocate to Epe. So congratulations to the minister and his team if they actually pull it off and start running commercial services by year end.

They however need to stop misleading the people either by misrepresentation or by the omission of providing cogent data. We’ve had every excuse in the book about completion. First it would be completed in an impossible 2018, then 2019, then 2020, likely 2021 or later if we are honest. Recent excuse was covid-19 but now we are hearing of adverse weather which is predictable and foreseeable.

Yesterday at Africa Rail, a representative of the NRC claimed that Lagos-Ibadan SGR was 97% complete. This cannot possibly be true. Buried in this story here in the comments of the NRC chairman Ibrahim Musa is the reason. There are about 13 bridges to be built at level crossings within Lagos that is in the scope of the project.

These are road over rail bridges that are yet to be built and could take as long as 5 more years to construct. So how can it be 97% complete? The imperative until the bridges are built is that trains may travel through Lagos at speeds of only about 15kmph instead of 60kmph further limiting the capacity of the track. It also means level crossings which are an accident black spot.

If the track is to be shared with Lagos Light Rail as we hear, then the capacity limitation may become even more acute.

Level crossings also create bottlenecks on the roads and the traffic disruption by the railway could be atrocious even by Lagos standards given that 3 rail systems would operate in that corridor and we may invariably be talking about a train passing every half hour assuming capacity permits.

NRC chairman says they will share the responsibility for constructing the bridges with LASG. That implies savings in cost instead we hear that project costs may exceed $2bn against the baseline of $1.6bn. Finally, the minister may be courting trouble when he proposes to do away with fencing of the track. It’s a public safety issue and he has an obligation to protect the public. If the fences are being pulled down, then it may be a design issue. If you fence off a thoroughfare, the onus to provide a convenient alternative is on you. You must consult the people and reach agreement first. Stop behaving as if you are doing them a favour cos you are not. it’s their country, their money, their land, their railway!!

In sum, congratulations to all concerned but please try to level with the people always.

*Rowland Ataguba, a strategic railway delivery expert is the Managing Director, Bethlehem Rail Infrastructure Limited, London NW7 4RS

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