The Minister of Railways Development, Joe Ghartey, says his outfit is considering a policy proposal to secure funding to fence the country’s rail lines.
Mr Ghartey said, “We are also considering a fence since I have cleared them but they keep coming back.”
“You know this involves a lot of money and we also need Parliament’s approval so it’s one of the options available to us and we will want to push for it,” he told JoyBusiness.
Encroachment along rail lines
On Friday, January 4th 2019, Joe Ghartey joined the Ghana Railway Company for a test run on the Accra to Tema suburban passenger service to pave way for the reopening.
During the test run, it was clear that activities of encroachers and people who use the railway track illegally as a thoroughfare and a place for economic activities was threatening the operations of not just the Accra to Tema Suburban Railway Line but the entire railway sector.
This observation has left both the Minister and the Ghana Railway Company with no choice than to postpone the reopening date for two more weeks, whilst steps are taken to secure the lines.
“The activities of the encroachers threaten the development of our railway's sector. It threatens the opportunity that the railways afford us to transform our economy. The cost of doing business, the cost of transportation, the congestion on a road, the cost of food, the reduction of inflation and the increase in economic activity along the railway corridor are but a few of the benefits the modern railway network envisaged by the President will bring to Ghana,” Joe Ghartey stated.
He added, “We cannot allow the interest of a small minority, who are acting illegally, take precedence over the interest of Ghana. I use this occasion to appeal finally to the people encroaching on railway land to advise themselves.”
Encroachment along the country’s rail lines has remained a major setback to the development and rehabilitation of the sector for decades.
Several warnings including demolishing of structures along some rail lines in the past have yielded little or no result.
Since the assumption of office, the sector Minister Joe Ghartey has been sending warnings to encroachers on properties of the Railway Company limited to desist from the act or face the full rigours of the law.
He also hinted of the prosecution of some staff of the Railway Company who were allegedly involved in several illegal activities on the country’s railway properties.
But it is clear from the latest discovery by the Minister that there is still more work to be done to protect the sector.
When asked how the Ministry intends to deal with the situation, Joe Ghartey said his outfit will continue public education, sensitization and removal of structures round railway lines.
Tema-Accra rail service
The Tema - Accra rail service was suspended for over a year following a minor accident on the stretch.
After months of rehabilitation, the Ghana Railway Company Limited announced a test run beginning Saturday, December 22 for full services to resume on the 24-kilometre rail-line.
The reopening was expected to bring some relief to commuters around Asaprochona in Sakumono, Baatsona, Shangrila, Dzowulu, Achimota, Odo, Kwame Nkrumah Circle, and Kantamanto in Accra who are mostly traders.
But this excitement could be short-lived.
Rail sector transformation
The Ghana railway system has been in existence since 1898 and was then managed by the Ghana Railway Authority.
Years back, trains in Ghana were mainly known for transportation from mining areas to markets.
The Ghana railway was essential in the transport of produce from the mines mostly in the Western region.
Tarkwa to Prestea is a branch line on the Western Division that used to service the manganese mines among others
But that is no longer the case.
The sector has almost collapsed leaving just a few lines operating.
As part of the transformation, agenda government has developed a plan to build a modern railway network from the South to the North of Ghana with associated infrastructure.
Government’s master plan for the railway sector entails the construction of about 407 kilometres of new railway network across the country
The revamp process which has been divided into six stages; includes the rehabilitation, expansion and the Trans Ecowas expansion phase.
The total length of the rail network identified as Priority Projects is 1394 kilometres.
Implementing these ‘Priority Projects’ will create jobs and facilitate trade and industrial development. This will, in turn, stimulate economic growth.
In the process, new towns and cities are expected to be developed while older towns would be revitalized.
The total cost for the completion of the government’s railway plan is estimated at about $7.8 billion.
Although the source of funding for the entire amount is unknown, the government intends to involve the private sector as well as private investors.
In the 2018 fiscal Budget Mid-Year review, Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta announced that government intends to spend GHc200 million on the development of fast train service from Accra to Tema.
But this dream of transforming the once vibrant railway industry may not materialize if steps are not taken to stop illegal activities along the country’s railway lines.