Railways are important means of transport that come with cheaper costs of operation. Besides providing cost-effective means of transportation, they are capable of carting very large consignments of goods that facilitates domestic and external trade.
The railway sector has also proven to be one of the safest, most comfortable and reliable transport services connecting towns and villages and ensuring positive businesses for economic growth.Ghana’s 945-kilometre rail system is a relic of the colonial government which it used to transport goods from the hinterland to the ports. The system stretches from the middle belt of the country where the colonial masters harvested timber and mined different kinds of minerals, which they transported to the southern sector, precisely to the Takoradi Port, for export.
The system is, therefore, nestled around mineral and timber producing areas such as Kumasi, Konongo, Nsuta, Prestea, Huni Valley, Abosso, Bibiani to Takoradi and Tema, both port cities.
There is no gainsaying that the sector also employed a lot of people and facilitated the generation of many more outside the sector. Currently, the Ghana Railway Company (GRC) still employs about 1,400 people, with less than 10 diesel engine-powered trains in use.
Although the colonial masters left almost 1,000 kilometres of railway lines, only 64 kilometres are functional, according to the Minister of Railways Development, Mr Joe Ghartey. The reasons, the Daily Graphic believes, include the lack of maintenance and investments.
While the government is working to attract investors into the sector, the Daily Graphic is worried that the GRC still keeps a large number of employees even though the very equipment they are supposed to work with – the rail engines and coaches – are unavailable.
Any organisation that has such a large workforce in the midst of less work will definitely find it difficult to survive, if it does not collapse. The only reason the GRC is still alive is because it is a state-owned enterprise and coughing out a severance package in the face of the paltry revenue the company generates is really a tall order for the state.
In the absence of the needed investments with the government’s inability to raise resources to fund redundancies, the Daily Graphic calls on the management of the GRC to be innovative in finding resources to carry out basic maintenance in order to keep the trains on the tracks.
The workers must feel burdened that they receive salaries every month and yet have little to show for their output. An innovative and determined workforce will take their own destiny into their hands, think out of the box and address some of the basic challenges that confront them.
The Daily Graphic also wishes to commend the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) in Tarkwa for agreeing to develop courses in railways to improve upon the current state of the rail sector.
We can envisage that even more hands would have been required to work with the GRC were it to have state of-the-art railways, engines and coaches.