The project, which has been awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is being jointly funded by the Nigerian and Chinese governments, and will cost about $1.5bn (N458bn).
Already, the Federal Government has made its counterpart funds available, while China promises to release its own by the end of this month, according to Okheria.
This is coming about six months after the Federal Government and the CCECC signed an agreement for the project.
The NRC helmsman, who spoke with our correspondent exclusively in Lagos on Friday shortly after receiving a leadership award from the ECOWAS Youth Council, said, “The Chinese government promises that by the end of the month to release its counterpart funds. And the project should, therefore, start in the next one month.”
The new Lagos-Ibadan rail, spanning 156.65 kilometres, is a double line, which is the first phase of a new Lagos-Kano standard gauge line.
The new line, when completed in 18 months, would coexist with the old narrow gauge rail line, Okheria said.
The contract for the 2,733km new Lagos-Kano rail was first awarded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006 at a cost of $8.3bn to the Chinese company (CCECC) but could not be executed due to paucity of funds.
It was re-awarded to the same contractor by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2012 for execution in six phases, starting with the Lagos-Ibadan stretch.
Okheria also said arrangements were being finalised to start the construction of the Lagos-Calabar and Kaduna-Kano rail lines.
The Federal Government and the CCECC last year signed the contract for the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan and Calabar-Port Harcourt rail lines after the two parties agreed to cut down the total cost for the projects from $11.917bn to $11.117bn.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who signed on behalf of the Federal Government, had said the cost reduction for the projects was achieved after the contract was renegotiated by both parties.
“The contract was awarded by the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan for $11.917bn. When we took over at the ministry, we renegotiated with the CCECC and we succeeded in reducing the contract sum from $11.917bn to $11.117bn and we are able to save $800m after the renegotiation,” he had explained.
Amaechi also said the projects should be completed in two years, adding that the railways would be connected to the seaports.
For the Lagos-Calabar rail line, the minister had said the CCECC would “commence the construction of the first segment with Calabar-Uyo and Aba-Port Harcourt, and this will include all the seaports on this route. But the entire contract covers Calabar, Uyo, Port Harcourt, Yenogoa, Otuoke, Ughelli, Warri, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha and back to Benin, Ore, Sagamu and Lagos.