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GRCL considering fencing rail lines to prevent encroachment

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey, Dominic Moses Awiah & Edward Acquah
Encroachers on a portion of the rail line at Alajo in Accra
Encroachers on a portion of the rail line at Alajo in Accra

The Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL) is considering the option of fencing rail lines in parts of the country as a permanent solution to encroachment along the rail corridor.

Currently, the company is holding consultations with stakeholders in the country and seeking expert advice from foreign best practices to find a permanent solution to encroachment on buffer areas along rail track.

The Deputy Managing Director of the Ghana Railway Company in charge of Engineering, Dr Michael Adjei Anyetei, however, indicated that the option of fencing the rail lines was being considered.

“It is a policy issue, and we must seek all relevant approvals. We have done the demolition about five times, and after each exercise, the encroachers came back. We are using the tax payers’ money for this demolition. So we had to pause and go back to the drawing board to find out how best we can address the problem,” he said.

According to Dr Anyetei, part of single standard gauge of the Western Rail at Sekondi-Takoradi had been fenced.

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“We do not fence it only because we want to get rid of squatters but also to address the issue of the danger posed to people who loiter in and around the track,” he added.

Danger
Expressing his worry about activities of encroachers and people who used the railway track as a thoroughfare in and around the buffer zones of the corridor, Dr Anyetei said such activities posed a threat to the operations of the railway sector.

“Our mode of maintenance is not mechanised. It is manual so the illegal activities of the encroachers disturb the track structure and pose serious danger to our operations,” he stated.

Although Dr Anyitei could not state the timelines for the demolition of structures and the construction of the fences, he said the company would first have to write to the Ghana Railway Authority to seek approval from the Ministry of Railway Development before it commenced the procurement processes.

“We need to allocate a budget, invite companies to bid for the contract and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have to give approval for the construction and other procurement processes,” he said.

In the meantime, Dr Anyitei said a task force of the GRCL was working around the clock to prevent encroachers from undertaking any form of illegal activities close to the rail tracks.

Encroachments

When the Daily Graphic visited some communities along the Accra-Nsawam railway last Saturday, the team found out that squatters had occupied portions of the line in spite of the imminent dangers.

The encroachers, most of whom are petty traders, ply their trade along the shoulders of the rail lines at different intervals daily.

Some of the encroachers arranged their wares on tables, while others mounted unauthorised structures between 20-25 metres away from the rail track where they conducted various forms of businesses.
The structures included lottery operators, food vendors, hawkers, artisans, mobile money operators and scrap dealers.

Some portions of the rail line also served as places of abode for some people who had placed makeshift structures on them.

In some cases, scores of old and dilapidated vehicles had been parked and abandoned on the shoulders of the rail line.

The activities of the squatters have also led to the generation of heaps of waste along the shoulders of the rail line.

Some of the communities dotted along the line include Odorna, Avenor, Dome, Abofu, Alajo, Tesano, Achimota, Ofankor, Pokuase and Amasaman.

Beneath an overhead at Alajo existed scores of petty traders who had occupied the area to conduct brisk business.

In a chat with some of them, they said: “We know the schedules of the train.

“We are stationed here because a lot of commuters use this stretch to Circle and Tesano. It is an avenue for us to make some sales,” a man who identified himself only as Spider stated.

Demolition signs

Even though some of the structures along the rail line were marked for demolition by the Ghana Railway Company (GRC) by June 5, 2018, the exercise was yet to take off.

In a chat with some of the occupants, they admitted that officials of the GRC had asked them to vacate the area on countless occasions through dialogue and letters.

They, however, indicated that the absence of an alternative settlement for them accounted for their defiance of the GRC orders.

They expressed their readiness to move, if alternative settlements were offered them.

"Let the government leave us, we will go when the train starts coming," Auntie B, a food seller close to Dome railway line said.