By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, . . .[restrict]27 February 2013:
The government has approved the resumption of the railway project, according to the Minister of Transport, Abdel-Qader Mohamed Ahmed. He was speaking at a press conference yesterday, Tuesday during which he also revealed a study to transform the ports in Zawia and Khoms into the two largest in the country, linking Europe to Africa.
Explaining that he already had had talks with the Russians about restarting the railway project, Ahmed said that he was now awaiting the arrival in Tripoli of a Chinese delegation for talks on resuming their part in it.
The $12 billion scheme was split between Russian Railways (RZhD), tasked with building the line between Sirte and Benghazi, and the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC). The Chinese were awarded a contract in 2008 to build the line from Sirte to Khoms and then on to the Tunisian border at Ras Jedir. The Chinese also won the contract to build the 800-kilometre line between Misrata and Wadi Shatti near Sebha.
The railways project, which was thought to have been mothballed after the revolution, is now also being actively supported by Congress. A week ago its spokesman, Omar Hemidan, said that it had tasked its Communications and Transportation Committee to choose a president and vice-president for the railways implementation project.
Despite wanting to revive it, the transport minister yesterday warned the Russians and Chinese not to increase their original contract prices by claiming for compensation for the two-year delay, during which costs of construction materials significantly increased.
He said that Libya would pay the companies 50 percent of what they were owed if they restarted work again under the original terms, with the rest of the fees being paid in two further 25-percent tranches.
The same offer has been made to Chinese, Turkish and other companies involved in building housing and other projects, providing they drop compensation claims. However, most have refused.
According to the minister, there is a Plan B if the Russians and Chinese refuse the railway offer. There is an alternative project with the Italians still on the table, he said, using Italian funds agreed as part of the 2006 $5 billion compensation deal for the Italian colonialisation of Libya agreed between Qaddafi and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.