Vetting live: ‘We can’t afford to let the railway sector die’ – Joe Ghartey

Minister-designate for Railways Development, Joe Ghartey has taken his turn to be vetted by Parliament’s Appointment Committe.

If approved, the former presidential aspirant will work to revamp Ghana’s crippling railway sector.

Members of the Appointment Committee are taking Mr Ghartey through his CV, to correct mistakes where necessary.

 

Boankra Inland Port Project

Tema East MP, Titus Glover started the question and answer session. He asked the nominee what he will do to ensure that the Boakra inland port is connected to the Tema and Takoradi ports.

J.G: The nominee acknowledged that it was necessary to improve the rail sector to facilitate the easy movement of goods from the Tema and Takoradi ports, therefore the Boakra inland port project is an integral part of the railway expansion project.

In an illustration, Mr Ghartey said even over hundred years after the roads have collapsed, rail played an important role in the transportaion of goods.

He said government intend to develop a railway to give the maximum benefit to the country.

“Some of us when we see rail, we see the growth of an economy that we cannot even begin to explain.”

We shall create a new city of rail in the north – Paga. What will happen in Ghana if we agree to expand the railway will be an explosion, he said.

 

Hindrances

MP for Bawku Central Mahama Ayariga asked the nominee what he envisages will be a hindrance to the construction of a railway to Paga.

J.G The nominee said among other things that money can frustrate the construction of the rail to Paga but is considering involving different contractors at different sections.

“It depends on how we manage it and if we manage it and manage it properly in a few years we will get to Paga by rail.”

On how complimentary services that come with the rail lines will be managed, Mr Ghartey said it will be critically considered.

“While thinking about creating a railway to Paga all its accompanying services will be considered. It is all part of the business and in addition we must create Ghanaian businesses in the process.

“If we manage to make an investment of 5 billion dollars that will be a massive investment, Kenya did it.”

He added that there is the need to develop the expertise.

A group, he said, has approached his outfit to manufacture and export wagons from Ghana and “if we are able to do it, I will be very happy.

“So we are looking at all that, complementary industries and all the industries that come along the way.”

 

Financing mechanisms being considered

On how governemnt will finance such an ambitious project, the nominee said talks have started with the people who have ideas and different options.

J.G He said the signal that was sent with the establishment of a railway ministry has triggered some interest and quite a number of people have come forward with suggestions.

He added that there will be a close collaboration with the Finance Ministry as these options are being considered.

“There is work that has to be done, which will create the necessary framework for us to embark on such an endevour.”

He also indicated that there’s the need to look at the institutional framework of the sector if the projects are to be viable.

 

Awaso Takoradi rail line

MP for Bodi, Samson Ahi asked how the nominee intends to revamp the rail line stretch from Awaso to Takoradi and the plans in place to revive it.

J.G: The nominee assured that the project is part of the master plan. It is marked blue on the plan, he said.

The need to revive it cannot be overemphasized. When done it will help in the transportation of goods

Because Awaso to Dunkwa is a serious cocoa growing area, the rail lines need to be developed to enable  transportation is vital

It is part of our plan, it is part of that phase and it has already started. We shall continue to Tarkwa and develop it in sections

 

Electric trains

J.G: We have challenges with electricity but some believe we can generate a separate electricity for it

We are going to develop trains that belong to this century.

We are moving to trains which move 100 and 120 kilometres per hour.

 

Tema Kantamanto rail line

MP Ododiodiodio, Nii Lante Vanderpuye asks how the nominee will improve the rail line from Tema to Kantamanto.

J.G: We have to develop a module that includes the traditional authorities

Instead of them just being compensated, they can partake in the economic development that will occur so that they can continually get money from it.

When you speak to the people from Kantamanto, they are ready for development, they need to be involved in the development mechanism.

 

Kyebi Kade rail line

Ataa Akyea asked how the nominee intends to improve the rail line linking and Kyebi to Kade rail line

J.G: He is committed to support the expansion and redevelopment of the rail line to support the transportation of aluminium.

I am fully committed to getting it done

This ministry must as a necessity cooperate with other ministries

We will get the benefits of the aluminium industry

 

Rail workers

MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa asked how the nominee, if approved will handle the issue of poor salaries the rail workers receive. Have you looked into that matter and what assurances can you give to railway workers across the country?

J.G:  They have problems with their salary and we have charged the MD and the new board to give us a plan of three years, with which we can make the sector viable. They have assured that if they buy better wagons and they are able to transport and export goods,  the income they will get will be sufficient to enable them pay themselves.

We have a plan and the MD has agreed with me that we will put that before the Ministry of Finance and see it through.

 

Haulage Lobby

Okudzeto Ablakwa again asked if the nominee is aware of the strong haulage lobby and it is not in the interest of the haulage lobby to have a vibrant railway sector.

J.G: The ministry will consider establishing a relationship with cargo owners and put in place a model of participation, which will help raise funds for the sector.

“It is a partnership and we must see it as such. People like what is there, they don’t like change, but we must explain to them the benefits of a new project and they will be ready to come on board.

I think that with negotiations, we can enter into some kind of collaboration for the interest of Ghana.

Automation

Adwoa Safo: What will you do to ensure monies collected from Railway passengers are well accounted for.

JG: The automation of the railway is not rocket science. Even the mass transit bus system in Ayalolo is using an automated service that accounts for monies collected and we can replicate same in the raiway sector.

Adwoa Safo asked further if the Ministry is considering underground train service or sky train service.

JG: The average cost per kilometer for the underground railway is $3million, 100 kilometers will run into several millions of dollars. So please let’s stay above the ground for the time being. Maybe in the next decade we can begin to look at underground railways.

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