GHANA and Burkina Faso have sent a joint proposal on a project to extend the railway network to the northern regions of Ghana, to the African Development Bank for funding.
A feasibility study on the viability of the project is expected to start soon for its funding to be considered.
The Minister of Harbours and Railways, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, announced this at the worker's durbar of the Ghana Railway Company (GRC) Limited at its major maintenance and repairs workshop, popularly called Location, at Ketan near Sekondi, in the Shama Ahanta East Metropolis.
Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the government of Burkina Faso was very much interested in the project since it would benefit that landlocked country greatly. He explained that the landlocked country imports come through the Tema and Takoradi Harbour sand transported by articulated trucks to Burkina Faso, which he said was very expensive.
The minister said the railway line to the north would end at the two border posts at Paga and Hamile. Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi stated categorically that the Ghana Railway Company had not been divested to any investor to take up the rehabilitation and management of the company as of now.
He said the government had not entered into any written agreement with any investor to take up the GRC, adding that all what was going on were negotiations for its divestiture.
He described members of the team set-up by the government to negotiate on its behalf as very competent and that they would definetly strike a good deal for the GRC and Ghanaians as a whole.
The minister said besides the negotiations going on to select a new company to take up the management of the GRC, frantic efforts were being made by the government to reactivate and improve on the operations of the railway sector.
He said government was seeking assistance from India and China for the rehabilitation of the eastern, central and western railway lines to help improve on the operations of the GRC and raise the revenue base of the railway sector.
According to Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi, a new bauxite mine would begin operation at Kyebi in the Eastern Region, by the year 2007, and that would greatly boost the operation of eastern railway line if it was completely rehabilitated.
He said the new bauxite mine was expected to produce 14 million tonnes of bauxite annually and that the GRC would be expected to cart this volume of cargo toTema Port by the eastern railway through the Tema railway.
The minister said the GRC was in a precarious situation and was indebted to many organisations and institutions including the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) which it owed about ¢56 billion.
The company also owed the Internal Revenue Service over ¢13 billion, the Ghana Oil Company (GOIL) and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), among others.
Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the company was allocated ¢10 billion in this year's budget, which he said was woefully inadequate for the revamping of the company.
He said the Bauxite Company had also given the GRC $2 million for the rehabilitation of the railway He commended workers of the GRC for their sacrifice and urged them to give the government time to negotiate with the investors and select the one which would put the GRC on a sound footing.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the GRC, Mr G.S. Appiah, said the company needed a huge amount of money for the rehabilitation of the company to improve on its operations.
He said additional gangs had been set up to regularly repair the railway. Also, he said a marketing unit had been established to canvas for the company to cart cocoa to improve its revenue base.
The acting Managing Director of the GRC, Mr Emmanuel Opoku, urged the workers to come together to help management to improve on the operations and raise the image of the company to the benefit of all.
During the open forum, workers complained about the habitual delay of the payment of monthly salaries and the downward trend of the operations of the company. They also called for the review of the tariffs being paid by their major customers, namely the Ghana Manganese Company and theBauxite Company.
The minister also inspected three new transit sheds being constructed at the Takoradi port.