Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has blamed the paucity of funds for the slow pace of work on the Eastern narrow gauge railway project.
Amaechi who stated this in Port-Harcourt, Sunday, however, expressed optimism of the possibility of track-laying getting as far as Enugu by September this year.
Accompanied by top officials including Dr Magdalene Ajani, Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Transportation and Engr. Fidet Okhiria, Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC; Amaechi decried lamented the slow pace of work by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, urging them to come up with the number of equipment and personnel needed to quicken the construction of the project.
“The project was inaugurated last year but it is at this level because enough funding was not given to them. Now, they have something that can make them go further from where they are. They have some level of funding and I hope that we secure the loan before they exhaust what we currently have.
“Our expectation is that they get to Enugu by September in terms of track-laying. I think we also need to ask them whether they will be able to construct the stations because there are stations that are yet to be approved by the cabinet. We need to go back to the cabinet to ask for those approvals,” he said.
He also harped on the need to provide cover for the workers, saying “I think we need more security here than we currently have so that we don’t have any kidnap cases.”
On what to expect of the stations along the corridor, Amaechi said, “what we are trying to do in this narrow gauge is to build the same infrastructure that you have on the standard gauge because you can never tell when you will have a standard gauge on this line.
“Now, when building the standard gauge on this line, if I were still the Minister for Transportation, I would have asked that whoever is designing should design it in such a way that they use the same stations. That way, you reduce cost”.
On what to expect on his next inspection tour, the Minister noted: “I expect that they should have cleared up to Imo river; I expect that they should have started formation work and they should have gone far, because there is nothing much to do here. It already exists, it is a reconstruction.
“So, I expect that by the time we come back, formation work should have commenced and should have gotten close to Elele and should have either gotten to Imo river or exceeded Imo river if we must meet the target of September to get to Enugu”.