After gulping N500 million and reaching over 50 per cent completion level, the Safe Train Control (STC) project of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) has been stalled, Daily Trust can report.
The STC is a control centre located within the NRC headquarters in Ebute-Metta, Lagos where train movement across the country can be controlled and monitored as part of the modernization of the operations.
Daily Trust reports that the project, which started in 2013, was funded through the Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) of the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Under the SURE-P, created following the partial removal of fuel subsidy, the Federal Government diverted its share of the re-investible funds into critical programmes among them railway modernization.
Our correspondent reports that the Safe Train Centre was part of the projects carried out under the Railway Project Implementation Unit of SURE-P for which over N30 billion was released.
On August 6, 2015, the immediate past managing director of the NRC, Mr. Seyi Sijuwade, unveiled the STC installed and manned by a South African consortium, Ansaldo Gear Group and A3&O Ltd.
He explained that at the touch of a button in the control room, the corporation could monitor real-time movements of trains on the tracks, with the aid of the On Board Computers (OBC) installed on its locomotives.
“Before now, we relied on GSM phones to communicate with our drivers. If there is any breakdown or accident or any other challenge, our drivers communicated with the engineers via phone. There’s no way we can monitor all our operations at a glance. This will stop with the deployment of this equipment,” Sijuwade had said then.
“Among other features, the equipment enables us to monitor and control train speed, to avoid derailment and collision, and also enhance fuel economy. It promotes efficiency and ensures adherence to journey time by drivers; minimises damage to tracks and other infrastructure. It has the capacity to increase frequency of train movement, with consequent increase in revenue,” he added.
However, Daily Trust learnt that at the time the Control Room was unveiled, the project was not fully completed yet.
On February 2016, the Joint National Assembly Committees on Land Transport during an oversight visit to the NRC inspected the Control Room with the current Managing Director, Engr. Fidet Okhiria and the Director of Operations, Mr. Niyi Ali, explaining the operation of the project to the lawmakers.
The committees were told that the project was stalled by lack of funding.
Okhiria at the time said, “It is one of the projects being funded by SURE-P. A lot of equipment was shipped in for the project. They have installed the on-board computers connected with 17 locomotives but the completion and duration is driven by availability of funds. We have received 80 per cent of the equipment needed.”
More than two years after that oversight visit, the system has not fully taken off. In fact checks by Daily Trust at the NRC headquarters indicate that the control room has been shut down at the moment.
There was no official or personnel in the room as it was locked with all the air-conditioning machines and satellite dish installed outside not functioning.
There are fears the cost of the completion of the project would have gone up following the disruption of the project.
“The project was stalled by funding and nothing more”, said a source that is familiar with the project but refused to comment further.
When contacted at the weekend on the status of the project, the Director of Operations directed our correspondent to the managing director.
But the MD could not be reached for comment as he did not return several calls put to him by our correspondent and text message sent to him was also not replied.