The Federal Government plans to acquire more land outside the railway right of way for the construction of the new Lagos-Ibadan rail line.
This is coming about five months after construction work was expected to have started on the $1.5bn (N458bn) rail project.
But the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr. Fidet Okheria, who spoke on the fresh land acquisition on Monday in a telephone interview with our correspondent, stated that construction proper would begin soon after the Senate approved the $1.5bn loan package for the project.
The project, awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is being jointly funded by the Nigerian and Chinese governments.
Spanning 156.65 kilometres, the track is a double line, the first phase of a new Lagos-Kano standard gauge line, and is expected to be completed in 18 months.
Although Okheria said the new standard gauge rail would pass along the existing railway corridor, the acquisition of more land was to cater for its expansion.
According to him, the new rail line will be constructed in a way to reduce curves and give room for future expansion as well as redevelopment.
This, the NRC MD noted, informed the decision to halt the ongoing building by the Ogun State Government of a flyover bridge at Ijoko, under which the new track will pass.
“The NRC team, consisting of mainly engineers, and that of the Ogun State Government have met on the issue and agreed on the need to stop work on the bridge so that the bridge can be raised in order to accommodate future developments,” the NRC managing director stated.
He also said adequate compensation would be paid to those whose land might be affected by the extension of the right of way for the new rail line.
Land clearing, he added, had commenced in earnest along the old track, with the demolition of shanties and illegal structures in preparation for the construction proper.
Okheria said only those with genuine building approvals would be paid due compensation among those whose structures were being pulled down.
There are, however, fears that the project may not be delivered by next year as earlier promised by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, in view of the delays it has suffered.
About three weeks ago, the minister, leading the NRC team, had met with the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosu, and the CCECC team at the Ijoko Bridge site to discuss the height of the flyover bridge as an impediment to the rail project.
He had said, “Today, we came to the conclusion that they (CCECC) have not commenced serious work and this is because of the problems they are having on the right of way.
“One of the problems is the height of the flyover, which Ogun State is building. We need to increase the current height from 4.8 metres to 6.5 metres, because we may want to use electricity to power the engine (in future).”
The Federal Government and the CCECC had last year signed the contract for the construction of both the new Lagos-Ibadan and Calabar-Port Harcourt rail lines after the two parties agreed to cut down the cost of the projects from $11.917bn to $11.117bn