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Sat, Nov

Reviving the railway sector: Over to you, Joe Ghartey

Mr Joe Ghartey, Minister for Railways

It has been everybody’s expectation that our governments will be able to find the wherewithal to revive the railway sector.

Those who experienced the era of rail travel pleasure and later the “rail romance” will testify to the safety and comfort of rail transport as against the common means of transportation by road.

Today, urbanisation and expansion in population have made it difficult for the government to extend good roads to all parts of the country.

The option, in such circumstances, would have been a thriving railway sector.

It is difficult to cite one major cause for the collapse of the railway sector, but it will not be far-fetched to say that the twin challenges of mismanagement and the economic downturn in the 1970s might have accounted for the near collapse of the once vibrant sector.

The problem could also be that after independence, our governments did not think beyond the economic triangle around which development activities had been centred.

Most of our development initiatives have been centred around the capital city of Accra, the Twin City of Sekondi/Takoradi and the Garden City of Kumasi.

Other areas left out from this triangle were considered not to have viable economic activities but only fit to provide labour.

After independence, we have not moved away from this triangle concept of development. Therefore, when the crops and other resources that supported the railway network failed in prices and yields, all sectors of the economy started facing difficulties and the railway sector was one such area.

Again, at the time of the railway boom, road transport was not very developed.

So when competition came from private road transport operators at the time and rail transport did not look very attractive, the rail sector took the road towards decay.

Various attempts had been made in the past to put the railway system on track, but, like most of our initiatives, they had come up against roadblocks.

Just as was the case in other sectors, the attitude of governments in interfering with the management of state organisations and workers’ attitude of appropriating portions of state property to themselves combined to cause the early collapse of the railway sector.

It is, therefore, not surprising that lands and other properties belonging to the Ghana Railway Development Company (GRDC) have been sold to private developers.

 So what used to be the buffer zone of 15 metres on each side of the railway track that was a no-go area for any developer has been encroached upon by private developers, including some railway officials.

The Daily Graphic thinks a Herculean task awaits the Nana Akufo-Addo administration as it attempts to extend the triangle to Paga. While we think it is doable, we are of the belief that it requires very tough decisions.

The Daily Graphic urges the government to explore opportunities available internally and abroad to fix the railway sector, as the returns will serve as a catalyst for the economic and industrial transformation of our country.

Mr Joe Ghartey, the sector Minister, equally has a major task to perform. We urge him not to relent and also remember the “threat” by the Omanhen of the Essikado Traditional Area, Nana Kobina Nketsia, that he would personally campaign against the minister if he failed to deliver. Over to you, Mr Joe Ghartey.