More than a year after the inauguration of the train shuttle service between Sekondi and Takoradi, the Ghana Railway Company (GRC) is yet to break even due to low patronage of the service by commuters.
The GRC is operating at a loss and its income is not enough to meet liabilities such as the salaries of workers, fuel and maintenance costs.
The service, which is expected to run throughout the day, night and weekends, currently operates only morning and evening sessions between Monday and Friday, with cabins mostly empty or half full.
The low patronage has also been attributed to the direction of development of the city, which is heading inland as against the operations of the shuttle which are limited to the coast — from the Takoradi Harbour to Kojokrom, Sekondi.
Interestingly, inland areas such as Apowa, Kansawurodu, Anaji, Bu, Kwesimintsim, Ntankoful, Aseike, among others, do not have rail lines incorporated into the planning of the city.
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Some commuters in the Twin City who spoke to the Daily Graphic welcomed the introduction of the service but said accessing the terminals of the service meant additional cost to them.
A tomatoes seller in the central business district of Takoradi, known only as Auntie Araba, said: “If we close from the market, we walk just a few metres to the trotro or taxi station to board a vehicle home. But if we have to go by train, which is fast, though, we have to first take a taxi to the terminal at the harbour at an additional cost of GH¢1.50. So instead of spending GH¢2, we end up spending GH¢3.50 or GH¢7 daily on transportation.”
When the Daily Graphic visited the Takoradi Harbour, Kojokrom and Sekondi terminals of the shuttle service after the morning shuttle, it observed that the station was quiet immediately after the shuttle had arrived.
The newly refurbished terminals have waiting areas, meeting points, a boarding area, digital signages and places for snacks.
The Head of Human Resource, Administration and Industrial Relations of the GRC, Ms Elena Aikins, said although those who wished to use the train incurred an additional cost, the benefits outweighed the expenses.
She explained that with the shuttle service, the commuters were in control of their time, as they could arrive at their destinations in time and that could boost productivity.
“With the low patronage, which is a great concern to us, the company is coming up with community sensitisation programmes to whip up the interest of people in the service.
“We tried advertising and partnered local radio stations, but that yielded no result. The best thing now is to engage the people directly and take feedback,” she said.
Ms Aikins stated that during the rehabilitation of the lines, various stops were positioned in communities along the lines from New Takoradi, Nkotompo, Adiembra up to Sekondi to ensure easy access to the coaches.
“That notwithstanding, the more-than-600 capacity shuttle train remains less patronised but we are working at it to get more people to patronise it,” she said.