General News of Wednesday, 18 February 2015
Source: The Chronicle
Workers of the Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL) have observed that the decision by the government to revamp the rail sector in the country should not be seen as an insurmountable task given the fact that they have acquired vast knowledge and experience over the years to handle the situation.
According to the workers, since the country had operated the rail system for a century with a long, enviable and rich history in the sector, all that is required currently, to revamp the ailing rail sector is the political will and financial investment from government.
The General Secretary of the GRCL, Mr. Godwill Ntarmah who made the observation at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the GRCL noted that the deplorable condition of the sector and the huge work deficit faced by the rail workers in Ghana calls for urgent revamping of the sector.
Speaking on the theme “Revamping the rail sector in Ghana – A necessity for Economic Transformation”, Mr. Ntarmah said “We have all been witnesses of the years of neglect, disinvestment and in some cases abuse of railway infrastructure including lands and buildings”.
These sad realities according to Mr. Ntarmah had happened even though the revamping of the rail sector had been a recurrent theme in our political discourse during election times since the 4th republic, revamping the rail sector is however a medium to long term project.
As a short term measure, the General Secretary explained that there was the urgent need for the government to sustain the operations of GRCL by releasing funds for the procurement of spare parts for the locomotives to ensure continuous haulage of manganese and the running of passenger services.
That aside, Mr. Ntarmah elucidated, there was the need to bring to a halt the practice where some unpatriotic officials of GRCL aided private developers to encroach upon railway lands with impunity.
Addressing the concerns raised by the GRCL workers, Ms. Joyce Bawa-Muntari, deputy Minister for Transport said notwithstanding the challenges facing the rail sector, government had taken and continue to adopt various measures in line with contemporary railway development and management strategies to revamp the railway transport system.
She mentioned the passage of the Railway Development Authority Act as a clear case of strategy to revamp the rail sector. She said with the Act, the Authority in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport would develop a Railway Master plan that would enable government to develop an agenda to promote and prioritize a systematic investment strategy for railway infrastructure development in the country.
The Deputy Minister assured the workers that the government had plans to rehabilitate, modernize and expand Ghana’s ailing rail network. She said currently, out of the 947km track length, only 130km of the entire network was operational with freight services provided on the stretches on the line from Nsuta to Takoradi, adding passenger services are also being done.
The Deputy Minister pointed out that currently; government is reconstructing the Takoradi-Sekondi via Kojokrom sub-urban railway line with its own resources, amid the aim to provide rail commuter passenger services to ease road traffic congestion within the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis.
Ms Joyce however said due to the capital intensive nature of the railway sector, government was seeking alternative financing arrangement that would ensure adequate investment in the provision and maintenance of various infrastructure and services in the country. On his part, Managing Director of GRCL, Mr. Benjamin Amofa hinted that before any company could survive and make progress, there was the need for investment to be made.
“As a 100% wholly owned Company by the Government, we will plead with the government to take a second look at this’. The MD however was optimistic that if the repair of the Awaso rail line was done, the company could haul over 100,000 tons of bauxite in addition to other commodities, stressing that would put the company back on its feet.