Today SmartRail World talks to Bello Roni, Deputy Director (Signalling & Telecommunications) at the Nigerian Railway Corporation and an expert speaker at SmartRail Europe. The Nigerian Railway Corporation is currently undergoing a period of investment and modernization as passenger levels grow in the West African state. The modernization of the system includes track spot renewal of Lagos to Kano and Maiduguri to Port-Harcourt, the supply of 25 new locomotive engines built by GE to boost the existing motive power base of the Corporation, the upgrading of the signalling and telecommunication system from manual to semi-automatic, as well as rehabilitation of Carriage and Wagon Workshops, re-equipping the workshops, supply of service support (spare part consumables), and a strategic re-branding of the Corporation. The rapid development of rail in Nigeria has helped re-ignite a vigorous rail driven trades of good such as oil and further enabled regional trade growth.
Luke Upton (LU): Hello Bello, many thanks for the time today, can we start by asking for you to tell us a little more about your role at the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC)?
Bello Roni (BR): Yes, of course. Primarily, as the head of the Signalling & Telecommunication unit of NRC, I work with a team to ensure the safe operations of NRC passenger and freight trains. This is to protect both life and investment. In addition, the team also has the daunting task of modernizing NRC train control system to meet growing needs, particular increasing line capacity on single track lines
LU: Yes, we understand there is currently a big emphasis on modernization. One of the challenges within developing signalling projects is increasing value yet reducing cost, what’s the number one strategy for achieving this?
BR: The balancing act is modernization. In NRC, we are re-signalling the lines with radio-based train control system and also implementing fibre optic as backbone instead of microwave radio. This strategy brings in both higher safety and cost reduction.
LU: Thanks and in view of some of this enhancement. What are some of the opportunities for development in African rail signalling and telecommunications?
BR: The growing populations and economies of African countries and the consequent growing demand for physical integration, coupled with the clear advantage of rail transport over road transport means more and more rail projects. All of these also translate to more and more appropriate signalling and telecommunications projects.
LU: Thanks, and finally, what are some of the challenges for African rail signalling and telecommunications?
BR: There are a number of key constraints here; an absence of regulation and standardization, spectrum issues for modern signalling and telecommunications system, the high cost of implementation, a lack of manpower and some challenges with the security of installation, in particular the track-side equipment.
LU: Fascinating, looking forward to hearing more in Amsterdam in February.
Bello Roni will be one over 100 industry leaders speaking at SmartRail Europe alongside 1000 attendees and 40 exhibitors in Amsterdam, 24-26th February 2014. SmartRail is the definitive European rail signalling, telecoms and technology congress and expo. For more on the event click here and to find out more about Nigeria Rail Corporation visit www.nrc-ng.org
Editor's note - for more on the African Rail Industry see - ‘Into Africa’- how Chinese funding helps fuel an African rail boom; projects in Kenya, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Morocco profiled.
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