The Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL) yesterday launched the Accra-Tema train shuttle service for the thousands of commuters who depend on rail transport to travel between the capital and the industrial city daily.
The launch, which is expected to revamp the rail industry after a long break in train service, follows the rehabilitation of the Accra-Tema rail line and the successful test run on the same stretch.
The service, operated by a diesel multiple unit (DMU) train, also marks the 120th anniversary of the introduction of rail transport in Ghana.
Yesterday’s 30.8-kilometre journey from the Accra Central Station to the Tema Community 1 Station began at exactly 8.22 a.m. and was described by a section of journalists on the trip as the return of the rail “romance”.
The ride on the six-coach shuttle, with the capacity for 600 passengers, attracted quite a number of passengers for the close to three-and-a-half-hour return journey.
The dignitaries included the Minister of Railway Development, Mr Joe Ghartey; the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Railway Development Authority, Mr Richard Dombo.
There were also the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Mr Ishmael Ashitey, and some traditional authorities.
Others were the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah; the Managing Director of GCB Bank, Mr Ray Sowah, and the Managing Director of SIC Insurance, Mr Stephen Oduro.
The GRCL is to provide free service for the next two weeks up to February 11, 2019, after which it will introduce a commercial air-conditioned shuttle service from February 12, this year on the same route.
Passengers are expected to pay about GH¢5 to enjoy the service.
The Accra-Tema train service was suspended on October 22, 2017 when the train derailed at the Alajo station with about 100 passengers on board from Tema to Accra.
As part of the total facelift of the train service, the relaunched service has smartly dressed hosts and hostesses, cleaners, train drivers and security men whose job is to ensure passenger comfort and convenience.
Before departing the Accra Central Train Station, the English, Akan and Ga-speaking hosts and hostesses welcomed the guests and media personalities aboard the green-seat coach that had passengers facing one another.
They also ushered the passengers to sit comfortably.
In a regular service, those having difficulty finding their seats will be assisted in similar manner.
As the train tooted its horns along with a bell sound, it chugged off from the central station and gathered pace as it revved on.
The attendants first welcomed the passengers with bottled water, and no sooner had the train reached the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Crossing than one of the hostesses approached a passenger who had thrown his empty water bottle on the floor of the train and politely directed him to do the right thing.
“Please we do not do this here, since we have dustbins in the train where you can put your empty bottle," the soft-spoken hostess was heard advising the gentleman.
Threats along the way
Less than 10 minutes into the journey on the smooth tracks, the slow-moving train made its first stop at the Achimota Station.
Along the journey, it was noticed that a number of wooden and metallic structures, washing bays, settlements, refuse dumps, mechanic shops, vegetable farms, cattle kraals, garages, churches, mosques and football pitches were still close to the rail lines, a challenge that can compromise safety on the shuttle service.
“We have to address these illegal structural problems which may affect the movement of trains if not checked,” Mr Essel declared.
When the train got to Achimota at exactly 8.55 a.m., it had to change tracks, a process termed shunting, to enable it to move towards Tema.
At precisely 9:21 a.m., the shuttle made a brief stopover at the Baatsonaa Station before it headed for the Asoprochona Station at Sakumono, where it arrived at 9:39 a.m. In less than 16 minutes it arrived at the Tema Fishing Harbour Station before reaching its final destination, the Community 1 Station, at 10.30 a.m.
On the return journey, the shuttle made no stop until it arrived at the Accra Central Station at exactly 11.45 a.m.
Rebirth of rail sector
Addressing the press after the launch, Mr Ghartey stated that the rehabilitation of the Accra-Tema rail line had been done “totally with Ghanaian money and with Ghanaian experts”.
“As far as the GRCL is concerned, today should mark the rebirth of the company,” he said, and expressed appreciation to the SIC for showing interest in the railway sector by donating GH¢1 million to provide insurance cover for the operations of the company.
“This money will be given to the company to improve the Accra-Tema and the Accra-Nsawam rail lines,” he said, and called on other companies to support the railway sector as part of their corporate social responsibility.
For his part, Mr Essel said the company, with the support of the government, had also rehabilitated the Accra-Nsawam and the Takoradi-Tarkwa sections of the rail lines, while over 10 coaches that had been scrapped had also been rehabilitated.