Discussions are ongoing between the Federal Government and investors on how to power Nigeria’s trains with electricity or gas, following the astronomical hike in the cost of diesel, it was gathered on Tuesday.
Partners in the discussion are giving greater consideration to the use of electricity by establishing an Independent Power Project that will operate at a frequency and voltage different from the regulator domestic supply by power distribution companies.
Diesel price increased from about N250/litre in January this year to about N800/litre currently and reports say the amount spent daily on fueling the trains that operate on the Lagos-Ibadan Train Service, for instance, was 135.3 per cent higher than the earnings of the Nigeria Railway Corporation from tickets sale.
The Managing Director, NRC, Fidet Okhiria, in a recent interview had said that the Federal Government, through the corporation, had commenced discussions with potential investors on how to run trains across the country on electricity or gas.
He said, “We are looking at how fast we can connect our trains to electricity. We are discussing with various people who said they can provide power. So, it is either by connecting our trains to run using electricity or by changing our locomotives to run on gas.
“We are also assessing how readily available these alternatives are. We are exploring these options presently. We are considering them as alternatives instead of diesel. So we are studying it.
“We have some people who have come to us and are working with our men in the research department to see if the present locomotives we have can be converted. And how possible is it that if we want to get new locomotives we can make them run on gas. We are also sourcing how easily available are these things we are talking about.”
Okhiria added, “However, I think the best option is to have an Independent Power Project that will service the rail, but it will not be the same rating with the regular domestic power supply. This is to avert a situation where people will start tapping into it.
“So, we have to do it in a way that if you are talking about 50 hertz frequency for the regular power supply, the frequency and voltage for the rail IPP should be different, so that even if they tap the power, it will not work for them. That is what we are looking at presently and what we are discussing with potential investors.”
The NRC boss further said when the corporation achieved this, it would be cheaper to run and maintain the trains, noting that the investors were visiting the country’s railway facilities to conduct feasibility studies.
“We believe it will be cheaper and easier to maintain the trains because we will now have less moving parts of the locomotives when they powered by electricity,” he stated.
Okhiria added, “We are discussing with the potential investors and they are going around looking at our right-of-way and other facilities, as well as how they can come in.
“You should also know that while doing this new rail modernization, we are already providing some elements of power because we have 33kV transmission lines in Abuja-Kaduna. It is also ongoing in Lagos-Ibadan.
“The only area we have issues is the Itakpe-Warri line and this is because of some people who want to cut some of these things. We have a dedicated 33kV line from Kaduna to Abuja that takes power to the stations.”
He said the corporation’s right-of-way was constructed in a way that the head-room was provided with facilities that would support the operation of full electric trains in future.
“So they are studying it to see how they can come in. Also, the NRC Act permits us to generate power that is to be used by the corporation for our operations,” Okhiria stated.