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Ghana’s railway sector: A dying flame under Akufo-Addo in the wake of Mahama’s unsung achievements

Just like many things under the Nana Akufo-Addo government, the development of the railway sector began, first, with overflowing hope and hype, then a few groundworks here and there, but eventually, today, the flame is fast dying out.

Before putting together this article, a quick glance was taken at the website of the Ministry of Railways Development to get an official idea about the ongoing and completed projects under the current government.

Both the “Ongoing Projects (https://www.mrd.gov.gh/3/3/on-going-projects)” and “Completed Projects (https://www.mrd.gov.gh/3/4/completed-projects)” sections on the site were totally empty. Maybe it is a technical hitch, but our checks prove otherwise. It is simply a reflection of the sorry reality on the ground. If there were any significant progress, it would have been reported; but in this case, with progress being too insignificant, it would smack of mediocrity to list them on the website.

Nutricare

It was important to check ongoing and completed projects under the current administration because while the critical nature and importance of the rail sector to the economy seems to have been well appreciated by the government, political lethargy and sheer incompetence deny the state and every citizen the much-needed progress in the sector.

Rather, what this government has been riding on, quite ungracefully for that matter, has been the past achievements in the sector by the John Evans Atta Mills/ John Mahama administrations.

Yes, there has been some rehabilitation of some railway lines, by the Akufo-Addo/ Bawumia government. Yes, there has been the establishment of the rail training school/university in Sekondi, but what else has happened? The hyped sky train is now a point of personal ridicule for the former sector Minister, Joe Ghartey and the government.

Today, the most important projects have either stalled or have been hit by chaos. The contractor working on the 300 metres suspension bridge over the Volta Lake for trains failed to deliver on a March 2022 completion date for the $500 million project.

In February this year, Afcons Infrastructure Limited told Joy Business it would complete the bridge – part of a total 97 kilometres Tema-Mpakadan rail line – by the end of March.

The status of a $560 million deal that the Akufo-Addo government signed with Amandi Holdings Limited for the construction of sections of the Western Railway Line (Standard Gauge Line) between Takoradi Harbour and the Huni Valley remains largely murky. These unfortunate developments under the current government contrast sharply with that of the previous administration.

Under the Mills/Mahama administration, progress made in the sector was easy to track and they remain this country’s railways development bedrock to date. One of these railway sector projects for Ghana is the $14.5 million civil engineering and railway track construction project at Asoprochona to Tema harbour station. The project started in January 2010 and by October 2010 it had been completed. Then there is the construction of the railway line from Tema harbour station to Community One railway station at the cost of $9,457,000. This project started in 2010 and was completed in 2013.

There are more of these bedrock projects from the Mills/Mahama era that should be improved upon by the current administration. For instance, the construction of a new railway station at Community One and the remodelling of the Tema station, Asoprochona station, Batchona station, Achimota station and the Odaw station at the cost of $4,776,118. This project was completed in 2014.

Furthermore, in 2012, the John Mahama administration started the construction of the Sekondi to Takoradi via Kojokrom suburban railway line as part and parcel of the Western Line reconstruction at the cost of about $188,000,000.

By the end of 2016, the project was ready for commissioning. In that project, a total of about 30km of track was constructed, and three new rail stations were established at Sekondi, Kojokrom and Butuah. There were also four “no halts” constructed at Bakano, Ketan, Essaman and Sekondi Prisons. One of the outcomes of this major project was the remodelling of the main Takoradi station.

That’s not all. Two DMU train sets were procured, and two locomotives and six coaches were refurbished. The project enabled Ghana to use the following features of a railway line for the first time: dual gauge concrete sleepers, 54kg/m rails, design speed of 120kph and axle load of 21ton.

Another important foundation project in the railway sector under the Mills/Mahama governments is the construction of the Tema harbour to Akosombo multi-modal railway line, a project whose financing was sourced and approved from Exim Bank of India. This is when the government engaged Afcons and Team Engineering as the contractor and consultants respectively for the project in 2016. The estimated cost of the project was about $398,000,000. Apart from the construction of the 84km line, two rail heads (at Tema and Akosombo) maintenance workshops, station buildings and a modern signalling and telecommunication system were provided.

The many achievements in the very important rail sector by the previous government begs the question: what has the current government achieved, especially as they set up a whole ministry carved out of the previous Transport Ministry to handle railway?

In fact, it is interesting to note that the previous government even planned into the future by making the following provisions for the Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) to fulfil its mandate:

a) Front-end engineering design of the Western Railway line at the total cost of about €20,172,000.00. This was completed in 2015.

b) Inventory and valuation of Railway assets and liabilities as of 6th January 2009. Undertaken by Valuation and Investment Associates in 2013. Completed in December 2015.

c) Business and organisation development plan for GRDA by CPC Transcom. Completed in September 2015.

d) Railway Regulations. Undertaken by AB David and Norton Rose.

Now, when these facts, are laid out, one can’t help but ask again: What has the Nana Akufo-Addo administration firmly achieved in the rail sector? What accounts for the very little progress in the sector that was on the rise when they inherited it?

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