Minister of Railways Development, Joe Ghartey, has revealed that government is planning to begin assembling trains locally.
The move, he said, forms part of activities aimed at moving Ghana beyond aid and growing an indigenous railway industry that can rub shoulders with those of South Africa and other countries outside Africa.
Mr. Ghartey, who has for nearly two years been actively spearheading the transformation of Ghana’s once ‘dead’ railway sector, was speaking to journalists on Friday on the sidelines of a tour to the Tema-Accra railway line.
The tour, which had in attendance members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Member of Parliament for Suame Constituency in the Ashanti Region, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, was to afford master artisans from Suame Magazine the opportunity to access the state of abandoned coaches at the Tema Harbour railway station and the Ghana Railway Company Limited DMU workshop.
The artisans from Suame Magazine have accordingly expressed interest in collaborating with the Ghana Railway Company Limited to refurbish the broken down coaches.
According to the minister, “We want to grow a local indigenous railway industry.”
He added, “We want to come to a situation where not too long from now we will be able to assemble coaches at least in Ghana.”
Vision is to dominate Africa
The minister was clear on President Akufo-Addo’s vision for the railway sector, and that he said is to dominate the African railway industry.
“We are determined that in Africa, we will become the best in terms of railway sector,” Mr. Ghartey indicated.
But the minister is fully aware of the enormous tasks involved in making the Ghanaian railway sector the best on the African sub-continent.
As a result, he has thrown a challenge to the management and staff of the Ghana Railway Company to work extra hard and ensure that they adhere to rules on global best practices.
He has, therefore, warned railway workers nationwide to desist from illegal acts such as offering lands along the railways to individuals for settlement.
Mr. Ghartey stated that there are about 30 to 40 broken down coaches that have been abandoned for years.
He stated that upon assuming office, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government was confronted with several proposals to sell off such broken coaches as scrap materials, but he added that government declined the proposals and made a conscious effort to rehabilitate some of the coaches.
About 15 of the coaches were earmarked for refurbishment and government is also seeking to ensure that each refurbished coach has air conditions to ensure passengers’ comfort.
But as government is working tirelessly to transform the sector, the minister lamented that some individuals “are actively stealing.”
He, therefore, warned those in the habit of stealing to desist from such acts, adding that “we have to protect state property, you can’t dissipate state property.”
Tema-Achimota train service
The minister pointed out tremendous changes taking place in the country’s railway sector, and was optimistic that within a week or so from now, a test run will commence on the Tema-Achimota railway line to set the pace for fully resuming passenger service on that line which came to halt due to accident sometime back.
The Managing Director of Ghana Railway Company Limited, John Essel, told DAILY GUIDE that a total of GH¢1.5 million has been budgeted for the refurbishment of the 15 coaches, pointing out that so far less than GH¢1 million has been spent on procuring materials for the refurbishment.
DAILY GUIDE gathered that some of the refurbished coaches at the DMU workshop are first and second class.
The chief mechanical engineer of the Ghana Railway Company Limited, Alfred Selby, told this paper that the second class coaches have 96 seats whilst first class ones have 56 seats.