Ketan (W/R), May 11, GNA - Professor Christopher Ameyaw Akumfi Minister for Ports, Harbours and Railways said the government would not give away the Ghana Railway Company (GRC) to just any concessionary investor.
He said "we would ensure that whichever investor we find, has the finances to invest in the company and is also ready to retain and use over 2,000 of the workforce in its operations".
Prof. Akumfi said these at a workers' durbar at the Ketan Railway Location, as part of his one day working visit to the region on Wednesday.
He said workers of the GRC, who would be retrenched, would be paid their resettlement packages by government.
The Minister stressed that no contract had been signed with any investor yet, for the take-over of the company.
Prof. Akumfi said the low tariffs currently being paid by the Ghana Manganese and Ghana Bauxite was a disincentive to the workers of the GRC and assured them that efforts are underway to review the tariff, which was last reviewed in 1990.
He said currently, the government was holding series of discussions with the Indian, Chinese and Czechoslovakia governments, who have expressed interest in the rehabilitation of the Eastern lines. Prof. Akumfi said the Northern lines would soon begin to enable Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to import and export their goods through the Tema Port.
He said the Chinese government have expressed interest in a feasibility study, while a joint proposal between Ghana and Burkina Faso has been sent to the World Bank.
Prof. Akumfi told the workers that the GRC owed almost 86 billion cedis in taxes, Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributions and utility services.
He assured the workers that the Barclays Bank had also expressed its interest to assist in revamping the railway sector and assured them that the prospects of the GRC were bright, adding, "the opening of the Kyibi bauxite mine, would improve the finances of the GRC".
Prof. Akumfi said the new company would begin operations between 2006 and 2007 and the GRC is expected to haul 14 million tonnes of bauxite a year.
The Minister however, expressed regret that, though the shuttle services introduced recently was impressive, many commuters refused to purchase tickets before boarding.
"Some young men also attack the ticket vendors with the intension of stealing their money bags," he added.
He said the shuttle services needs a lot of supervision and monitoring to make it effective and to meet the growing needs of the public. Prof. Akumfi asked the workers not to be despaired but to work hard to raise revenue.
He urged them to be patient with their management, board and trust their leadership.
Mr Samuel Kokorvina, General Secretary of the Railway Workers Union (RWU) said the lack of raw materials to be used by workers was having a serious effect on the company and the workers.
He said haulage of goods to other parts of the country had slowed down, while poor working conditions have affected the moral of workers. Prof. Akumfi later inspected ongoing works at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) Transit Sheds, which are being funded by GPHA.