The Accra Tema rail line, which has remained dormant for almost two decades, bounced back to life when President J.A. Kufuor inaugurated the first phase of the rail project at Asoprochonaa, near Tema, on Thursday.
With the inauguration of the project, commuters between Accra and Tema will now be able to commute between Accra and Asoprochonaa, a distance of 15 kilometres, at a cheaper cost and at less travel me.
The project was financed by the government with a $5 million loan, a matching fund of $500,000, as well as GH¢3.7 million from the HIPC funds.
Ten coaches which have been refurbished will be used for the shuttle service and an additional 10 are in the process of being transported from Takoradi to augment the fleet.
The second phase of the project, involving the rehabilitation of the rail line from Asoprochonaa to Tema, a distance of eight kilometres, is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.
After the inauguration ceremony, President Kufuor and his entourage, including the Minister of Harbours and Railway, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, officials from the ministry and the Ghana Railway Corporation, had a train ride from Asoprochonaa to Accra.
During the ride, the President acknowledged cheers from residents of Asoprochonaa, Baatsona, Alajo and Agbogbloshie, all communities along the rail line. Basking in that glory, the President made an unannounced ride, through the central business district of Accra where he also received cheers from enthusiastic traders, particularly at Kantamanto and Okaishie.
Earlier at the inauguration ceremony, President Kufuor had announced that the government had earmarked GH¢90 million from funds generated from floating Euro bonds for the rehabilitation of the railway system.
He said the government's policy now was to rehabilitate and modernize the existing railway network and extend it further to the northern parts of the country for passenger services and the bulk transportation of goods from production points to the markets and ports.
However, the President said the government's efforts at rehabilitating the railway lines were being thwarted by the activities of individuals and groups who had encroached on land earmarked, for the development of rail transport and appealed to those who had taken that position to immediately relocate to facilitate the smooth commencement of those projects next year.
Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the project suffered serious financial constraints but the problem was overcome when the government made a substantial budgetary allocation for the completion of the first phase.
He gave the assurance that the second phase of the project would be completed by the end of 2008 and suggested that the rail line should be christened the “Golden Jubilee Line” to reflect the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the country's independence.
A contractor on the project appealed to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to expedite action on payment to the contractors.
The contractor, who wanted to remain anonymous, said although he submitted a contract certificate six months ago, the Ministry of Finance was yet to effect any payment to him.