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Opinions of Thursday, 7 July 2011

Columnist: Adede, Mercy Bolus

Ghana’s railway system a dream or a reality

The key to a successful country lies in these areas: better education of the general public, health care, transport, communications and housing for the poor and vulnerable.

In India, railways are the principle mode of transportation for freight and passengers and they played an important role in the development of industries and agriculture.

It is a known fact that Indian Railways has the distinction of being one of the biggest and busiest rail networks in the world. It operates 9,000 passenger trains and transports 18 million passengers every day. The Indian Railway employs approximately 1.4 million people.

It has been serving the people of India with utmost pride for two centuries. It was in 1851 the first train journey was made in India, for transferring construction material to Rorkee and the first passenger train journey became operational between Bori Bunder, Bombay and Thane covering a distance of 21 miles, thus marking the formal birth of the rail network in India.

Given the size of India, its railway network binds the social, cultural and economical fabric of the country and covers the whole of country ranging from north to south and east to west removing the distance barrier for its people. The railway network of India has brought together the whole of country hence creating a feeling of unity among Indians.

In China the rail system is also its main means of transport with over 10 billion railways trips taken each year. Train stations are important central hubs in most cities in China.

All successful countries are no longer cutting their networks but instead modernising and expanding them. This is because they have realised that railways are essential to the future economic progress of a country.

Why hasn’t Ghana also seized an opportunity to invest in our railway system of this nature and instead allowed our railway system to stagnate and be known for unreliability and inflexibility to business operations in the country. Ghana has so many High Commissioners from the countries with efficient railway system so why can’t we do a deal to get the right expertise into the country at a discount price.

Wouldn’t it be great if Ghana were to explore India, China, Germany and Australia’s railway system and its benefits against its own?

The research is there for any proactive thing Government to see how such a railway system could transform our transport system, maximise benefits to everyone thus freeing our road from congestion, unnecessary road traffic accidents, injuries above all drastically reducing cost to our health care system.

It appears Australia have also cleverly used the topography to their advantage why can’t Ghana do the same. .

Diversity

Spanning three time zones, and with roughly the same land mass as China or the USA, Australia is a continent of different climates, disparate topography and great distances. Australia is also distinctive as one of the most sparsely populated but urbanised nation in the world. Australia is a continent of topographical variety and vast distances. For example, the train trip from Sydney in the east to Perth in the west spans 4,352 km, with much the same distance separating Australia's northern and southern coastlines. Such journeys traverse mountains, deserts, rainforests, plains and snowfields.

Australia has a population of over 18 million people of whom almost 12 million live in 8 capital cities scattered around the coastal fringe. Nearly 80% of Australians live on the eastern seaboard. This demographic pattern established from the outset of European settlement, makes Australia one of the worlds most urbanised yet least populated nations. This situation posed special problems for Australia's rail pioneers upon whose work the nations rail pioneer upon whose work the nation's economic development depended.

Today, Australia has the benefit of a rail system across the nation, which satisfies large-scale demand for passenger and freight traffic in urban areas, and the needs of communities and industries in remote locations. Australia features an astonishing range of climates: tropical heat and extreme humidity, monsoons and cyclones, arid deserts, sub tropical and temperate zones, and sub-zero mountain ranges. Over the years Australia's railway engineers have become pre-eminent for their solutions to the challenges of climate diversity. They are renowned for their skill and experience in developing and operating efficient railway systems in tropical and desert areas.

Benefits: Boost for tourism trade Increase in job creation as a result of efficient system operations. Boost for education as student take on engineering programme Boost in GDP Decrease in road traffic accidents Freeing on the road allow road to need less maintenance Less air pollution

Credentials

With an annual turnover in excess of $8 billion and employing approximately 75, 000 people the Australian Railway Industry is one of the most modern and sophisticated in construction and consultancy services, but also in the innovative engineering solutions to combat a variety of physical, economic and technical challenges.

Innovation

In the 19th Century, Australia's economic future depended on the development of an effective and affordable rail network to connect the nation's emerging primary industries with their domestic and overseas markets. Australia's topography, climates, distances and scattered communities meant that this challenging goal could only be achieved by innovative engineering. This tradition of finding a better way remains integral to the success of an engineering environment where the imperative is to achieve cost effective railway solutions over vast distances and extremely arduous operating conditions.

Design and Manufacturing

There are seven rolling stock manufacturers in Australia, each experienced in the design of customised locomotives, a full range of freight wagons, passenger coaches. This industry is also self-sufficient in the development and supply of a wide variety of components. The component range also includes specialised air-conditioning units, centralised traffic control systems, electronic and solar powered remote area signalling. In Australia, tracks vary from the relatively lightweight variety used in the transportation of sugar cane to the heavy tracks designed for Australia's iron ore railways. Track maintenance equipment covers the full range from hand-held power tools to fully computerised 60 metre long track relaying machines.

Network Development

Australia's public and private railway network currently comprises a total of 37 000 kms of multi-gauge tracks. Over the past 2 decades some rural networks have been rationalised, but many thousands of kilometres of new track have been built to satisfy the increased demand for freight and passenger services.

• New lines created to open up coalfields in Queensland, and iron ore deposits in Australia's northwest; • New lines have been built and more are planned to develop the capacity of Sydney and Brisbane's urban systems. In Western Australia, Perth's new northern electrified line represents an excellent example of world-class integrated transport planning; • Work is currently underway on a billion-dollar upgrade of the Brisbane to Cairns rail link; • Improved signalling and train control systems have been developed and introduced to increase train capacity.

Performance

Australia's rail networks operational performance is impressive by any standard. Every year, more than 500 million tonnes of freight is hauled and 650 million passenger journeys completed.

Heavy Haulage Railways

Australia has established a worldwide reputation for the development of heavy haulage railways. These single-line networks carry some of he world's heaviest and longest freight trains whose diesel-electric locomotives haul in excess of 130 million tonnes of iron ore every year. In Queensland, over 120 million tonnes of coal is hauled annually. This performance is achieved by electric locomotives, which haul 100 tonnes per train and have been substantially designed and built in Australia for Queens land’s exacting tropical conditions.

Tramways

Australia has developed and operated some of the largest and most sophisticated agricultural and mine tramways. This technology is available as a complete materials-handling system, as modular equipment, or as parts.

What is Ghana waiting for? Why are we suffering on our road with people dying due to our shabby railway system? Instead we are focusing on building of more roads with lack of road maintenance strategies, and high transport costs.

Why is Ghana not generating wealth for itself and always seeking for loans and aids from foreign banks and countries.

It is about time Ghana seize the moment of great opportunities instead of seeing weakness all the time. We are a poor country so please give us the loan etc. All that is nonsense! We are fools and it is only the fools who go begging whereas the wise and smart countries think of strategies to over poverty. With the oil money and most official with shares floating on the stock market Ghana must stop all those begging tricks of poverty plea.

To be successful like the countries mentioned in this article means Ghana must and must strategically think of updating our railways system?

This should be the number agenda of Government’s manifesto as a priority. Ghana’s youth needs a challenge and job opportunities instead of leaving home to chase their dreams. Do you blame the youths?

Ghana’s government should encourage the youths and young people by ensuring that railways system is run efficiently to offer opportunities.

There are many Ghanaians working on the railways systems in the U.K and U.S, Australia. Having an open door policy at all our embassies globally which would encourage Ghanaians to share their ideas and expertises. However we need to give incentives to these people in order to motivate them to share their tacit knowledge in railways system. This would give Ghana us the upper hand. This exercise would not only ensure that our newly created railways system is run effectively and efficiently but also in a cost effective way thus boosting all kinds of businesses like what we currently have at Waterloo stations, St pancreas etc.

This is a challenge for the Ministry of Transport to deliver a new form and business ethos in a new railway system in Ghana.

Once we have mastered the game is railways as a business then we can expand to all the West African countries and share the idea during AU meeting so Africa will one day be linked to Europe by rail link. When this becomes a reality one-day Africa would then be the Africa would rise up from the Phoenix and shine like its radiant sun. What is stopping Ghana from grasping this wonderful opportunity for our future generations.

There is no tomorrow because today is “The Tomorrow”.

Ghana has oil so we must have the new railway system now! Thank you.