US$200m earmarked to deploy fast train service by Nov

Government has earmarked US$200million to immediately deploy a fast train service from Accra to Nsawam and from Accra to Tema, with construction expected to start by November this year.

The US$200million forms part of government’s equity contribution to development of the Eastern Line on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis, with government participation targeted at helping to decongest the capital city through a major transformational programme of building a modern, nationwide railway network system for both passengers and cargo.

Presenting the Mid-year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, Minister for Finance Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta disclosed that the Ministry of Railways Development has reached the final stage of procuring a strategic investor for developing the Eastern Railway Line from Accra-Tema to Kumasi on a BOT basis with Ghanaian participation.

Mr. Ofori-Atta mentioned that out of 14 consortiums shortlisted, the preferred bidder will be chosen by end of the year for work to begin next year.

The Accra to Ouagadogou rail network – another BOT project – has 11 entities shortlisted, with the procurement process scheduled for completion this year so construction can commence in the first quarter of next year. This line will serve the Eastern part of Ghana and go through Ho, Hohoe, Yendi, Tamale, Bolgatanga and Paga, he said.

“Our approach is one of building an integrated infrastructural network to facilitate industrialisation, trade and urbanisation across the country.

“To this end, discussions have started with real estate developers to build homes along the 95km Tema to Mpakadan rail line,” he said.

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Approximately 133.6 kilometres (km) – representing 14.1% of the entire rail network of 947 kilometres that is currently operational – consists of an obsolete network and poor track infrastructure, resulting in closure of the greater part of Western and Eastern lines and the entire Central line and leading to a high incidence of derailments which lead to loss of operational hours and damage to rolling stock.

The need for rail transportation has become obvious as commerce and economic growth starts in earnest within the country; and the development objective of building the country’s railways sector is largely to transport raw materials and heavy equipment for the mining companies, which will open up the economy.

Available data show that the rail sector commanded an over-70% market share of freight and passenger transport in the country during colonial days until the 1970s, and carried over 2 million tonnes of freight and 8 million passengers annually in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, due to inadequate funding for maintenance, the rail network started to deteriorate; leading to the diversion of freight traffic onto roads – exacerbating their deterioration.

The Ghana Chamber of Mines in recent times has been aggressively advocating rehabilitation of the railway system, notably the Western rail lines. The officials observed that benefits to the country would be enormous – given its services will extend to passenger travel and other sectors of the economy.

“On two occasions the Ghana Manganese Company has offered to directly invest in the rail infrastructure; but until now the authorities are yet to accept the company’s offer,” according to the Chamber of Mines.

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As a result, the Ghana Bauxite Company has completely stopped hauling goods by rail and solely transports its ore by the less cost-effective road mode, while Ghana Manganese Company uses the railway on a reduced operational level. This has adversely impacted realisation of these companies’ strategic objectives.

Previous attempts to reform the rail sector

President Mahama in his 2012 state-of-the-nation address pledged a massive revival of the defunct rail system.

“There will be significant improvement in our railway network in the next three years. Government believes that the private sector has a role to play in the ongoing modernisation of the rail sector.

“Examples are rehabilitation of the Accra to Tema railway network, Kumasi to Ejisu railway line, Accra-Nsawam railway line, and Takoradi to Kojokrom railway network,” he said.

In 2010 a contract was signed to construct a railway line from Paga (on the border with Burkina Faso) to Kumasi, plus a branch from Tamale to Yendi, but nothing realistic appears to be ongoing.

In 1997, government considered that a rail concession arrangement would be the preferred form of private sector participation for attracting private investment to improve railway performance.

In February 2002 the actual process for selecting a concessionaire commenced, and tenders were floated by M/S CPCS Transcom of Canada for interested consortia to submit proposals.

The proposed concession was to entail operation of the entire network.

The process was never completed due to government’s inability to arrange for an estimated US$27million needed for labour rationalisation. As a result, government decided to de-list the railway from its divestiture list in 2005.

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Operation of the country’s rail lines began in 1898 under the Gold Coast Civil Service, with headquarters in Sekondi.

The headquarters were transferred to Takoradi after the building of Takoradi Harbour, and railways and ports were jointly administered under the Ghana Railways and Ports Authority.

In 1976 SMC Decree 95 created the Ghana Railway Corporation to separate railways management from ports. The company enjoyed the status of a public corporation until 19th March 2001, when it became a limited liability company.

Much of Ghana’s 953-kilometre rail network was built to support agricultural and mining activities in the western, central and eastern zones of the country, but in the last few decades they have failed to yield the impact expected due to their deterioration – brought about by lack of fresh investment to modernise the system.

Fast Facts  

Total route length of 947km (593 miles)

Track length of 1,300km (807 miles)

Track gauge of 1.067 metres (3ft.6ins) with a maximum axle load of 16 tonnes

Except for the 30-km Takoradi-Manso section, which is double-track, the network is a single-track system of 1067 mm (3′ 6″) gauge (cape or narrow gauge)

Railway Network is divided into 3 main lines with branch lines

Main Lines are:

Western Line: 340 km                

Central Line: 240 km

Eastern Line: 330 km

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