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Opinions of Sunday, 3 July 2011

Columnist: Bolus, Mercy Adede

Can the Minister of Transport propose the creation of ....

a Rail link for West Africa?

Is it not interesting to know that the creation of a rail links was grasped by Europe over a century ago?

Whilst Africa is struggling to maintain its fragile unity, Europe on the other hand, is advancing in many ways due to its flexibility of travel by rail, air and sea.

Africa in contrast is failing to recognise this potential to help its agricultural and business sectors.

Ghana is a unique country and as I have been sharing on this website is blessed with all natural resources. You name a natural resource and we usually have it. Yet developments to make its inhabitants self-sustaining have stagnated.

With the new discovery of oil in Ghana, I am proposing to the Minister of Transport that the time has come for him to think more strategically to embrace both local and national commerce.

The obvious thing to do is to invest in a better rail system in Ghana and then to all the West African countries.

How can we make this possible

Promote the benefits of rail transport throughout West Africa

Invest in a proper national rail system.

What the Government need:

This is a long-term plan. It will take many years to achieve. However with oil prices so high and unlikely to fall in the future due to growing demand, rail is a strategic need.

Why rail?

It is much cheaper than flying and environmental friendly.

Opportunity for social net working

Increase of tourism trade.

The country’s unable to move bulk goods and large numbers of people.

Congestion on the road causing road traffic accidents

Drivers in Ghana are using unsafe road unworthy vehicles to solve solution.

Job creation – art and crafts, catering services, hostels and boarding schools through out the country could use their facilities as to offer cheap hostels to generate much-needed funds for maintenance of schools.

Opportunity to improve the medical services for example, having first aid hubs alongside rail stations.

Problems

Under investment: There is no point having a service that breaks down frequently, runs infrequently and never to time.

Supporting infrastructure. A heavy engineering team will be needed with proper tools and spare parts to maintain the system.

User acceptance. Past history needs to be overcome.

Getting other countries to develop their systems; some have never had one.

There is little to build on, it is basically starting from scratch.

Opportunities

Money from oil could be used to start investment.

China has been investing heavily in expanding it’s rail system; quality is now better and they have the largest network of high speed trains in the world. They are also keen to export their expertise and also provide funding.

There are two obvious routes to develop first: the existing coastal line should be expanded to connect all the coastal towns. Followed by Accra to Kumasi and Tamale. After this progress business opportunities are important therefore linking mines and other large industrial concerns.

When is the best time to kick-start such a project of this nature?

The answer is actually now 2011! Thank you.

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