‘Economy needs effective rail sector’

Business News of Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Source: The Finder

Railway Accra

“GHANA’S economy cannot grow without an effective rail sector,” the General Secretary of the Ghana Railway Workers Union (GRWU), Mr Godwill Ntarmah, declared at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the union, held in Takoradi over the weekend.

He said apart from providing a cheaper and environmentally friendly transport system, an effective rail network system connected to the country’s ports and harbours would equally boost both the import and export trade.

He said trains continued to play a pivotal role in the progress of most advanced countries, and emphasised the need for the sector to be revived towards national economic growth.

“All that is required to translate this dream into reality is the political will and financial commitment by government.

“Unfortunately, the reverse has been the situation all these years. The deplorable condition of the railway sector is there for all to see. We have all been witnesses of the years of neglect by successive governments since the overthrow of Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

“These sad realities have happened even though the revamping of the rail sector has been a recurrent theme in our political discourse in election years, at least since the Fourth Republic,” Mr Ntarmah stressed.

In the presence of the Deputy Minister of Transport, Mrs Joyce Bawa Mogtari, the union leader boasted of the competency of the workers to reverse the dwindling state of the company should the state decide to revamp the country’s railway system.

He said instead of moving the rail sector forward, successive governments have always applied negative methods like retrenchment of workers, thereby worsening the already deteriorating situation.

According to the General Secretary, in an attempt to revive the wobbling company in 1993, for instance, the administration of former President Jerry John Rawlings sacked 1,300 workers, but the problems of the company persisted.

He said in 2006 too, the administration of former President John Agyekum Kufuor also made an attempt to revive the company and in the process sacked 674 workers.

“The woes of the company has always been directed at retrenchment and workers sacrificed, but nothing really gets done,” Godwill Ntarmah lamented.

In her response, the Deputy Minister of Transport, Mrs Joyce Bawa Mogtari, who was the guest of honour, simply said “all is not lost.”

She said the Ghana Railway Development Authority, with the Ministry of Transport, has formulated a master plan aimed at revamping the almost dead railway sector.

According to her, the plan sought to rehabilitate, modernise, and expand Ghana’s ailing rail network, thus recognising the economic benefits of rail transport.

Currently, out of the 947km track length, only 130km is operational with freight services as well as passenger service.

The Deputy Minister said the government, through its own resources, was reconstructing the Takoradi/Sekondi via Kojokrom sub-urban lines to ease road traffic.

Mrs Mogtari said due to the capital intensive nature of the rail line project, the government was looking at the Public-Private Partnership approach, explaining that this alternative financing arrangement would ensure adequate investment in the provision and maintenance of various infrastructure and services.

The Minister announced an increment in the salaries of rail workers as a measure by the government to alleviate some of their economic burdens.

She urged them: “Refrain from any activities that would worsen an already bad situation such as granting leases, selling of railway lands and assets.”

Mr Benjamin Amofa, Managing Director of the Railway Authority, said the sector could be self-reliant with even 100,000 tonnes commodities, and called for the immediate repair of lines and the appropriate investments into the sector.

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