First step for Port Harcourt rail

News

Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway’s first 62km section resumes freight after delays, with further phases planned to connect major cities and ports.

Freight services resumed on the first section of the 1,443km Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway in early May. The entire line is being rehabilitated by China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC), with the project originally due for completion by October 2023 but work was repeatedly delayed, particularly by Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, so construction did not actually begin until March 2022.

The first 62km section connects Aba with Port Harcourt and work will now begin on Phase 2 – the 181km stretch from Aba to Enugu. Apart from Port Harcourt, the line will also connect with two other Niger Delta ports: Bonny and Onne.

New rolling stock is being delivered, new stations built and an industrial park in Port Harcourt developed, with plans for new inland container terminals in the longer term.

The whole Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway project carries a price tag of US$3.2B, with freight train speeds of 80 km/hour possible on the entire line. The federal government has financed work to date but 85% of the project’s entire budget is to be provided by bank lending.

Nigerian Railway Corporation’s (NRC) network is limited and has suffered from decades of underinvestment but successive governments have committed to rehabilitation work and the construction of new lines.

Elsewhere in Nigeria, freight services on the Lagos-Kano south-north line are due to be completed in June.Upgrading the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line is designed to improve transport connections between northern Nigeria and the far south, where all of the country’s seaports are located.

Aside from benefitting trade, the scheme has a political angle as the government is committed to connecting the mainly Muslim north of the country, which generally attracts less investment, with the southern ports.

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