The beleaguered railway sector urgently requires fresh investments in existing lines and the development of new tracks if Ghana is to traverse the difficult terrain of morphing from an exporter of primary products into an industrialised country, the sector minister has said.
Mr. Joe Ghartey, Minister for Railway Development projected that within the next three years more investment will come into the railway sector than perhaps will go into any other sector in Ghana.
The minister expressed these sentiments when he introduced the new CEO of the Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) to the media in Accra on Tuesday.
He maintained that the railway sector, as it stands currently, has “practically collapsed.” He was however quick to say that the situation cannot be blamed on anybody, but on successive governments not making the needed investment in the sector.
A report presented by the Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL) at the 2016 Transport Sector Review Conference revealed that as at the middle of 2016, out of a total network of 947 kilometers of tracks, only 135.5 kilometers representing 14.3 percent was functional due to lack of funds to maintain the tracks, signal and telecommunication system.
Ghartey, therefore, expressed happiness about the railway sector receiving the second highest budgetary allocation of GHS 518 million after the Roads and Highways Ministry in the infrastructure sector, further assuring that the ministry will aggressively promote the sector to attract the investment needed to take the rail tracks to Paga.
He said his government envisages the GRDA to become as big as the Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB) or the Ghana Investment Promotion Authority (GIPC) adding that the country’s economic transformation will be premised on the backbone of the railway sector.
The minister observed that the rail sector has played a very significant part in the economic development of every country since the industrial revolution and therefore developing it in Ghana is long overdue.
“All developed countries cannot be making a mistake. In every developed country there is a railway,” he opined.
Data from the GRDA shows that for every dollar invested in the provision of railway infrastructure and operations, three dollars are generated into the economy.
He described the appointment of the head of the GRDA as a very useful addition to the sector.
The new CEO, Richard Diedong Dombo, in a brief statement described the railway sector as a “sleeping giant” which with the correct focus and right personnel and investment will lift up the system.
“First of all, we will have an efficient, alternate travel mode for passenger, and of course exploiting the revenue that will be derived from freight supplying landlocked countries like Burkina Faso and the rest of them,” Dombo intimated as some of the benefits of the sector.
He said the creation of the Ministry of Railway Development by President Akufo-Addo was indicative of a statement of intent that there is a focus on the railway sector.
The CEO said the challenge ahead is “daunting” but “surmountable” and expressed his willingness to collaborate with the GRCL and the ministry.
The new CEO, a barrister-at-law has worked and acted in various railway industry management positions in the United Kingdom including as Operations Resources Manager for Southwest Trains Ltd.
He attended Nandom Secondary School, Ghana Institute of Journalism, University of Ghana and the Ghana Law School.
Godfred Tawiah Gogo