THE government has begun intensive negotiations with a British company, United Rail, one of the two companies which won the bid to take over the rehabilitation and management of the Ghana Railway Company (GRC), on how to get the railway sector back on track within the shortest possible time.
This forms part of the final stage of the process to get a concessionaire to revive the multi-million dollar railway sector as pledged by the government.
The other company, Spoornet of South Africa, which was also selected by the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) to be part of the negotiations, has, however, been disqualified for its inability to renew its bond with the government or respond to correspondence sent to it by the sector ministry.
The negotiations are being led on the government side by the Minister of Harbours and Railways, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, while Mr Mathew Burrow is leading the four-man delegation of United Rail.
Other members on the government side include Professor Henrieta Mensah-Bonsu, a legal practitioner and member of the erstwhile National Reconciliation Commission (NRC); Mr Sam Aboah, the Managing Director of Sambus Company Limited and member of the Governing Council of the University of Ghana, Legon; Mr Poku Kyei, representing the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; Mr Kojo Armah, an investment adviser; Mrs Ama Banful, Solicitor-General at the Attorney-General's office and chairperson of the committee that looked into the sale of railway lands, and Mr Kofi Bucknor, a legal practitioner with Kofi Bucknor and Associates.
The negotiations are being held to enable the two parties to agree on the best possible way to revive the rail sector in a manner that will be satisfactory to both parties.
Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi told the British delegation that the government was highly interested in reviving the rail sector to improve the transportation of people and haulage of goods in the country, while reducing the burden on the roads.
"Much as the government would want the best deal for its people, we are also aware of the fact that you would also want the best deal for your company,” he said.
The minister said with that in mind, there would be no need for any misunderstanding that could mar the negotiations.
“We need not polarise the discussions by taking hard stands on issues that can be easily resolved,” he added.
Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the revival of the rail network in the country had been long overdue and that it was the commitment of the President to restore it to its former glory.
He said it was against that background that it ensured that the companies which showed interest in the deal went through a transparent but intensive and competitive bidding process to select the best to undertake the job.
On his part, Mr Burrow indicated that United Rail was interested in the job because it believed that Ghana's rail sector had the potential to grow and become efficient.
He said although the GRC had deteriorated, there was still hope for it to jump back to its former glory “and that is why we are interested in helping to revive it".
Mr Burrow said the GRC had a lot of competent engineers who, when brought on board, could assist in getting an effective and efficient railway network in the country.
He said the investments required for the revival were huge and expressed the hope that the company's request to the government would be seriously considered.
Mr Burrow said one major area that the company would consider when given the opportunity would be worker motivation.
He said those workers who would remain with the new company would be highly motivated to do a good job for their country.
Mr Burrow said United Rail would not allow the company to go back to its former state because should such a thing happen, its credibility all over the world would be jeopardised.
He said the company, which began operations several decades ago, had its track record and was prepared to build on that anywhere it found itself.
Mr Burrow gave the assurance that excellence was the company's hallmark and that it would not compromise on that.