By Lucy Ogalue
The Federal Government is fully aware of he importance of preserving the history of the Nigerian Railway heritage, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has said.
Amaechi said this when he received the Managing Director, International Railway Heritage Consultancy Ltd., Mr Steve Davies, in Abuja on Thursday.
Amaechi said retaining the country’s railway heritage had been a major challenge and he would do everything possible to ensure it was preserved for the sake of the future generation.
He however called on International Railway Heritage Consultancy Ltd to come up with a concept paper on how to secure the country’s investment in the sector.
“It is important that we do not forget our history. We will want you to give us a concept paper on what you think we need to do to secure those investments for our children.
“And we need this quickly because we intend to rehabilitate the entire narrow gauge.
“When rehabilitating the entire narrow gauge, we may want to either demolish the old stations or build new ones and if care is not taken we may demolish the workshops and build new ones because of modern technology.
“We will be glad if we can see a concept paper on what can be done, so that we tie it into the numerous repairs we are going to do.
“We believe if we rehabilitate about 3,505 kilometres of narrow gauge, even if we do’t have money for new construction of the standard gauge, we can at least run with the narrow gauge which is about 80 kilometres per hour.
“But I don’t want to do that until I see the concept paper of this heritage programme to earmark what can be protected, saved and how to go about doing that. I will be glad to do that,” Amaechi said.
The Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Mr Fidet Okhiria, said it was important to know the history of railway in Nigeria before talking about modernising it.
“There is a railway legacy in the NRC that was started in 1995 with the aim of establishing a railway museum.
“The museum, other than acting as a form of relaxation park, also generated revenue for the government and attracted tourists.
“When we started in 1995, we donated some of the legacy buildings and they made it functional.
“We have some old books on railway, artifacts, steam locomotives, and rail carriage bus gathered in the premises in the railway compound. And we have not exposed it enough to others.
“The UK Rail legacy team visited us for a week. They have improved on our efforts, spending funds to bring it up on their own. And they want to come back and improve on it,” he said.
While speaking, Davies said his group had come to assist the country preserve its heritage at no charge.
“I think, with your modernisation in railway, there is a lot of opportunity here to look at.
“We need to ascertain what is really important and what can be taken and centralised in the central museum.
“We are here at no charge and, because we want to be here, we have already come up with quite a few designs that we think are practical.
“Some of these designs include potentially the rehabilitation of a couple of steam locomotives for tourists’ use and there is a huge international market for heritage steam in other countries.
“Although rehabilitating the steam will be a challenge, the ones we have seen in Lagos are in better condition than many we had rehabilitated and which are now operating on the main land.
“Nigeria has the ability to re-create steam if there is at government level the determination to do something better with the rail heritage.”(NAN)