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05.03.2007 General News

Railway from Accra to Paga soon

A dual carriage railway system to network Ghana from Tema, through Accra, Kumasi, Kintampo to Paga has received Cabinet approval to begin in June.

The proposal for the project was presented by a foreign-based company, Peatrack, in support of efforts by the government to revive the entire rail system in the country.

The approval now paves the way for the final agreement between the government and senior officials of Peatrack to be sealed on March 15, 2007.

The entire stretch of the project will be a dual rail carriageway and the first phase will cover Tema/Accra to Kumasi at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion and it will take up to three years to construct.

The Minister of Harbours and Railways, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, confirmed this in Accra and described the decision of Cabinet as refreshing.

Early this week, the German and Swiss Ambassadors to Ghana, Peter Linder and George Zubler, respectively, paid a courtesy call on the minister to lend their support to two companies from their countries which were key players in the Peatrack multi-billion dollar project.

The companies, Mattes, rail track laying equipment consultants from Switzerland and D.E. Consult, rail track engineers from Germany, were led into the country by a Ghanaian investor, Dr Ebenezer Mireku, the sponsor.

The government, when it assumed power in 2001, pledged its commitment to resuscitate the ailing rail network in the country and set up a separate ministry of Cabinet status to oversee the project.

Since the inception of the ministry some three years ago, more than eight consortiums from different continents, including Africa, had presented their proposals to expand and rehabilitate the rail line.

One of such consortiums, which came close to starting the project, United Rail, could not succeed because its negotiations with the government were deadlocked over thorny issues, including the payment of severance awards to more than 2,000 workers of the ailing Ghana Railway Corporation (GRC).

At the beginning of 2006, the severance package for the workers had been pegged at more than $20 million.

According to Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi, the lack of finance had been the major obstacle to the commencement of the project, which was intended to free the roads of heavy trucks.

He was, however, confident that the company selected for the project would live up to expectation.

Dr Mireku had indicated that the companies were already mobilised to move into the country.

He said the companies undertaking the project were tried and tested in their respective countries and were anxious to get the project done in Ghana.

He said the project would be undertaken using state-of-the-art equipment capable of laying up to six kilometres of rail tracks in a day.

“The moment they lay the bed, which takes a bit of time, the laying of the tracks will be a matter of time because they are determined to work 24 hours a day to get the project completed,” he added.

Dr Mireku, who had been knocking at the doors of the government to get the proposals approved, said, “I am a Ghanaian and I will not bring in companies which are incapable of undertaking such a project.”

He did not disclose the sources of funding but indicated, “We have negotiated the funds already and we will move in as soon as practicable to carry out our part of the bargain,” he added.

He said Cabinet was tough with questions but “we managed to convince them beyond doubt and it is up to us to deliver and we will do so.”

Source: Daily Graphic

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