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Opinions of Thursday, 9 February 2017

Columnist: Graphic.com.gh

Creation of Ministry of Railways Development is good

By Nana K. Danso-Mensah

Ministries, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies are the avenues through which governments effect their policy decisions and run the affairs of their host countries.

This structure of governance had been in place since the colonial times to the present day. It is the prerogative/mandate of every government to structure the machinery of government to reflect the aspirations and objectives of the ruling governments.

Ghana under the leadership of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced the creation of new ministries, one of which is the Ministry of Railways Development. In fact, I was enthused when I heard our President outline his intentions for the new ministry.

In a desire to transform this country into a modern one, one of the agents for this transformation is the railway infrastructure. Ghana used to have a vibrant railway system during the colonial and the immediate years after independence. However, this important transport system has been left to disuse.

Fond memories could be recalled when students in the early 60’s and 70’s patronised the railway transport in what was popularly known as the ‘Sleeper’.

Challenges ahead

The good intentions for the Railways Ministry will meet stiff opposition from interested parties. The absence of railways in the country’s transportation system has attracted a lot of people to invest heavily in heavy duty vehicles for the haulage of Cocoa and Minerals such as Bauxite from Awaso to the sea port of Sekondi/Takoradi. Owing to the monopoly these haulage owners have enjoyed over the years, any attempt to replace their businesses with the railways is not going to be easy. All subtle measures would be employed to stifle the initiative if not to kill it entirely.

Absence of railways system and its problems

The vacuum created by the absence of the railway system has led to many problems on our road infrastructure. As a result of heavy haulage trucks plying daily on our roads, the life spans of the roads are shortened.

A typical example is the Awaso Tarkwa-Takoradi road which heavy trucks use in carrying bauxite from Awaso to Takoradi. Apart from the destruction of the roads by the haulage trucks, the safety nature of the roads is also affected due to heavy toll of accidents associated with the long vehicles and heavy trucks plying the roads.

Moreover, the maintenance of these roads is seriously affected as a result of the poor maintenance culture in Ghana. Potholes and bumps are quickly developed on the road because of the intensive use of the roads by these heavy trucks. Roads which should have lasted 25-30 years cannot stand their expected duration in terms of cost-benefit analysis; the nation pays more for road repairs.

Fuel consumption

In relative terms, the rail system if well developed could reduce the fuel consumption on national average. Emission from these numerous haulage trucks is a danger to the environment.

Cost component

A well-developed rail system with modern facilities could be more comfortable for long journey travels. Imagine travelling from Accra to Paga on a modern high-speed railway.

Tourism development

A well-developed railway network in Ghana can also boost the tourism industry in Ghana since it would be cheaper to travel on rail than on a vehicle and, therefore, any average income earner could afford to travel on tour.

From the foregoing, one could only agree that a well-developed railway system in Ghana will enhance rapid development and any country which wants to develop would necessarily need to invest in rail transportation.

It would only take the visionary leadership of President Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo to braze the trail in his quest to put Ghana on the map of modernisation through railway development in Ghana.

The task ahead is nothing if not herculean. It would, however, take the dogged determination of a visionary leader to surmount it. Any developing country which pays a lip service to its railway sector does so at her own confusion and neglect. Let’s act now!