The country’s railway sector needs about US$21 billion investment to bring to life the proposed railway master plan which will see the construction of a railway network in excess of 4,000 kilometres across the country.
So far, a total length of 1,394 kilometers of the rail network has been identified by the ministry as priority projects to be constructed within the next four years.
“Implementing these priority projects will create jobs and facilitate trade and industrial development. It will also stimulate economic growth and that new towns and cities will be developed and older towns will be revitalized,” Mr. Joe Ghartey, Minister for Railways Development said this in an address read for him.
The Minister was speaking at the Annual Public Lecture organised by the Sekondi-Takoradi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (STCCI) in Takoradi.
It was on the theme: “Revitalization of the railway sector: impact and implications for the Port Twin-City of Sekondi-Takoradi, the Western Region and Ghana”.
He explained that under the ministry’s flagship programme dubbed “From Stations to Cities” all towns and villages through which the rail lines pass will receive facelifts- mini-cities and economic centres will also be developed alongside and according to the circumstances of each town.
According to him, the ministry has been tasked with ensuring the rapid development of a modern rail network in Ghana- if the rail lines are developed, it will connect the major cities of Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Tamale to the rest of the country, thus ensuring that movement and flow of goods, freight and people across the country become easy and cheap.
“The use of Ghana as the route for transporting goods from landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso to the ports of Tema and Takoradi and also from the ports to the landlocked countries will be of essence,” he said.
Mr. Ghartey pointed out that the rail sector has the potential to attract other bulk cargo such as cocoa, cement, mining equipment and petroleum products onto the rail network and the expansion of the ports of Tema and Takoradi will play host to increased shipping and dry-dock activities.
He noted that the existing network of rail lines built during the colonial period, have outlived their usefulness. The declined usage of the rail network has contributed in no small way to the decline in the economic and business activities in the Western Region which is considered the minerals hub of the country.
He said, it is the policy of the ministry that all the new rail network to be put in place in Ghana will be of standard gauge.
“The existing narrow gauge that are popularly called the Western and Eastern lines, running from Takoradi, through Tarkwa to Kumasi; Accra, through Nsawam to Kumasi will be maintained due to the existence of a number of coaches and rolling stock built to use the narrow gauge,” he said.
“The impact and implications for the Western Region, the Sekondi-Takoradi and the rail-line towns in the Western Region are enormous. I therefore call on the people of the Western Region to rise up to the occasion and embrace the new wave of development that is envisaged in the railways sector,” he added.
Mr. Peter Amoo-Bediako, Deputy Marketing and Public Affairs Manager in a presentation on the topic: “The importance of the development of Railways to the Port of Takoradi,” said rail transport is cheaper compared to other modes of transport.
He said railway brings revenue to the country as well as other businesses and it is cost effective- if the rail lines are developed, it will creates employment opportunities for the youth.
He mentioned manganese, bauxite, clinker, bulk and bagged cocoa, wheat, ammonium nitrate among others as some of the items that pass through the Port of Takoradi.
Nana Kobina Nkestia V, Omanahene of Essikado Traditional Area noted that the Port and Railways have strong linkages and that much can be achieved from the expansion of the sector.
He said there is the need for the creation of facilities and industries along the rails to add value to the many raw materials from the hinter lands before they are exported to other countries.
Ato Van-Ess, Chairman of Sekondi-Takoradi Chamber of Commerce and Industry added that the government’s creation of the railway ministry falls directly into STCCI vision of a functional rail system and so, STCCI pledges to work closely with the Railway Ministry in the governance and implementation of the ministry’s agenda.