The Minister for Transport, Alhaji Collins Dauda, has announced that financial arrangements for the Tamale airport would soon be finalised to upgrade it to international status, to serve as an alternative to the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).
This, he said, was to operate the airport as a hub for sub-regional flights, thereby easing pressure and congestion at the KIA, due to the increasing number of international flights and passengers.
According to him, international passengers, from January to August this year, increased by 16.7%, from about 900,000 in the same period in 2010, to over 1,000,000, while domestic operations increased to about 29.6% during the same period, from over 81,000 to about 106,000.
Taking his turn at the Meet-The-Press series at the Ministry of Information yesterday to inform the general public about events taking place in the Ministry, he said the upgrading of the Tamale Airport would also help to enhance efficiency in the handling of future Hajj operations, as 'the region is characterised by a large Muslim population that performs the annual Hajj.'
Additionally, he pointed out that the Northern belt has a high agro-based industrial potential, great historic heritage and cultural sites, which require an efficient air transport system to boost agriculture and tourism, which would also serve as a stimulus to the Sahara Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) project.
In further anticipation of the future growth in traffic at the KIA, he said the Ministry, through the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), would continue to process the on-going acquisition of land at Prampram, which had been captured in the land-use development plan of the Dangme-West district, to develop a new international airport in the future.
Also, under the 2012 Budget, the government had provided GH¢10 million to undertake rehabilitation works on the Kumasi and Sunyani runways, he stated, stressing, 'the rehabilitation works are necessary, because of the present level of deterioration and the increase in traffic, particularly, at the Kumasi airport, with the introduction of new and heavy aircraft.'
He observed that the Ghana Airports Company Limited would continue with the KIA Phase III rehabilitation project and the reconstruction of the taxiway, the main passenger apron, extension of the fuel mains, provision of Aeronautical Ground Lighting System, and the expansion and refurbishment of the KIA terminal building, including installation of aerobridges.
He added that to reduce passenger handling times, and in line with industry innovations, self-check-in equipment and software had been installed at the KIA to facilitate passenger processing, and 'work on the refurbishment, upgrading and expansion of the Domestic Terminal for international operations has started, and is currently 80% complete.'
Other measures to improve the sector, he mentioned, include a new landing aid, Doppler VHF Omni-directional Radio Range, that has been installed to help pilots navigate safely and efficiently to or from the KIA under all weather conditions, without the need to depend on Air Traffic Controllers for information.
Touching on the railway sub-sector, he announced that the government had taken measures to revive the ailing railway system, under an Indian credit facility, to take delivery of wagons, spare parts and track materials to address problems of old rolling stock and track infrastructure to improve services.
He said Parliament had also approved a China facility for the rehabilitation of the Western Railway Line, whereas the railway line from the Tema Port was being extended to Tema Community 1, to increase the benefits to commuters between Accra and Tema.
He noted that this extension line was currently about 90% complete, and expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2012, which was necessary, because 'the railway system in the country has completely broken down.'
As part of the government's efforts to revamp the sector, the Ghana Railway Development Authority has completed a Railway Master Plan for the country, and would also pursue the rehabilitation of existing sub-urban railway lines at Takoradi - Kojokrom - Sekondi, Ejisu - Kumasi, Accra - Nsawam, and a feasibility study of the Eastern railway line, and source funding for its rehabilitation, said the Minister.
These, he pointed out, provide an alternative to transportation by road, where motor accidents have been rampant, and claiming an increasing number of human lives.
He expressed worry over increased road traffic crashes and casualties, saying that provisional records indicate that from January - September 2011, over 10,000 accidents were recorded across the country, involving about 14,400 vehicles.
These crashes resulted in the deaths of 1,679 persons with 9,980 injured, representing a marginal increase of 0.44% in road traffic crashes reported in 2010, and 26% and 14% increase in persons killed and persons injured respectively.
Therefore, as a measure to improve road safety, revised Road Traffic Regulations would be passed by Parliament to enforce the use of seatbelts, removal of disabled vehicles, through a private sector led commercial towing services, and prohibiting mobile phone use while driving.
Also, in line with the 2011 - 2020 Decade of Action for road safety, as declared by the United Nations, an implementation strategy would ensure the operation of speed cameras and installation of speed limiters in commercial vehicles with gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tonnes and above, while teaching road safety in the formal academic curriculum of basic schools, among others.
Furthermore, he mentioned that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority would reform its license administration through Computer Adaptive Testing, and 'nine private investors who have been authorised would start construction of vehicle testing stations to complement DVLA's role of vehicle testing and inspection to enhance efficiency.'
To complement the private sector in the provision of public transport, the government has supported the Metro Mass Transit acquire 75 VDL Jonckheere buses, and was expecting an additional 25 by end of the year, which, according to Alhaji Dauda, had enabled the service to add twenty new routes to its existing network.
Also, 'the ailing Intercity State Transport Corporation is now showing signs of recovery' through a business arrangement with J.A. Plant Pool Limited, that has ensured the delivery of thirty new buses, thereby enabling the company to restore services to some closed down routes.
In view of the approaching Christmas season, the Ministry has also issued a directive that requires commercial transport operators institute quality control measures in their operations, including conducting pre-departure checks at their stations.