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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Hope for railways

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About one hundred international railway companies have expressed interest to operate Ghana’s railway transport system

The companies are located in the United States of America, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Switzerland, Sweden and Italy.

As a result of the vast interest, a Railway Complaints, Appeal and Review Panel has been established to deal with matters arising from inter-connectivity challenges of the various rail lines to be operated by the companies.

Dan Markin, chairman of the newly established Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA), made these known to the Times on Tuesday and said the companies would be pruned to about 30 after which they would be granted concessions to operate.

GRDA, established in 2008, under the Ghana Railway Act 779 has been tasked to give the rail industry a robust transformation.

Mr Markin said GRDA in view of its mandate, would use time-tested criteria to review the various applications to ensure that companies admitted to run the rail business inGhana really come to stay.

He said some of the issues GRDA would be looking at were the company’s profile, track record, financial capability with letter of comfort from its bankers, readiness to issue performance bond and indication as to the area of operation in Ghana.

Mr Markin said since the private sector had been identified as the engine of growth of the economy, it had become imperative to get private companies into the rail industry, a vital transport sector to accelerate development.

He said the law stipulated that any rail line was an asset of the government; therefore contract between GRDA and the companies would be on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis.

He said the government had decided to get a strategic partner in a Public-Private-Partnership arrangement to give GRC a new lease of life and protect it against fierce competition.

Public-Private-partnership was necessary because to overhaul the railway, industry would require an investment of not less than 12 million dollars.

Mr Markin said a Railway Fund would be set up to raise money to rehabilitate and expand the existing rail lines for the GRC to operate better.

All other avenues, including a development levy is allowed under the Act, he said, a railway would be exploited to get the levy operating to help the rail sector.

Rail lines earmarked for rehabilitation this year include Accra-Tema, Accra-Nsawam, Accra-Kumasi-Ejisu and part of the Western lines to facilitate, particularly cargo haulage.

He said the rail industry was still relevant in the context of Ghana’s plans to become the transport hub of the sub-region and urged Ghanaians to embrace the emergence of rail transport system which was not only cheaper but emitted less pollution and had no traffic problems caused by motor vehicles.

He said the rail industry would also help to extend the lifespan of the country’s road network since it could haul heavy cargoes presently carried by heavy duty cargo trucks that contributed to the fast rate of road deterioration.

Mr Markin said rail transportation would thereby be positioned, in terms of infrastructure and service delivery, to play a pivotal role in the economic transformation processes.

Meanwhile, the government says it has within the last 12 months settled all the salary arrears of the Ghana Railway Company workers accumulated for over two years.

The financial relief included the settlement of a compensation package for workers affected by redundancy under the first phase of the Ghana Rail-Lines Company Labour rationalization programme.

This was made known by Mrs Dzifa Attivor, Deputy Minister of Transport, on Tuesday when she swore into office the Railway complaints Appeal and Review Panel.

The occasion was also used to inaugurate the Railway Fund Management Committee which will disburse the Railway Development Levy.

The Panel will hear review and deliberate on complaints from railway companies.

Mrs Attivor said the government was taking steps to revitalise the railway industry which played a significant and crucial role in the socio-economic and cultural development of the country.

She said in the short and medium term, rail transportation remained the flagship agenda of the government.

Government, she said has therefore committed two million dollars under a Minimum Intervention Package for rehabilitation of the Western Rail-Line, the mainstay of the nation’s railway network.

Mrs Attivor said the expected private-sector participation would be attractive only if the regulatory regime was right and conducive, adding “in the past, concessionary arrangement had been difficult because Ghana Railway Company acted as both the referee and a player”.

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