RAILWAY TRANSPORT

Overview
The Railways sector is in a most deplorable situation and key sections of the network are inoperable. Since the 1960’s, Ghana’s railways have experienced reduced market share for passenger and freight traffic. Many reforms have been undertaken in the sector since the 1970s, but none achieved the desired impact of ensuring an efficient and sustainable system. Government is currently embarking on railway modernisation programme. Under the programme, the railway network will be expanded across the entire country to support industrialisation and other economic activities.

The railway sector can contribute a great deal to the rapid economic prosperity of the country and the revival of the sector should be linked to the development of the industrial sectors. Apart from the relief railways brings to our roads, they facilitate intra and inter-country trade. Ghana has a unique opportunity to develop its railway and allied industries to accelerate development, and satisfy the demands of our land-locked neighbouring countries that desire to be linked by rail to pave way for trade within the sub-region.

The development role of railways remains important, particularly for movement of bulk cargoes, mineral ores, building materials, oil products, grains, chemicals, steel, etc.; for long-distance transport of general freight; and also for movement of containerized cargo to and from Tema and Takoradi ports. It is expected that the programme to modernize the railways will satisfy demand from key sectors such as construction, manufacturing and export, as well as key industries like steel, cement and the emerging oil industry. Railway is a big job creator. It has an excellent multiplier effect feeding stimuli to other industries, lifting long-term growth potential and the economy, and catalyzing the country into a sustained growth path.
Railways throughout the world are currently undergoing a renaissance, particularly as it becomes clear that fast, efficient transport links are essential for the new millennium. This renaissance is driven by the growth in demand for transport services and an increasingly commercial approach to rail transport.

Key Challenges
A lack of clear definition of the role of the railway and the consequent weak policy guidance, combined with the apparent assumption that rehabilitation of the railway by itself would improve performance, may provide part of the explanation for this unfortunate state of affairs.
Major structural changes to the economic, industrial and manufacturing sectors of the economy must be undertaken before the railway system can be revived. Efficient corridors for freight transport by rail must be created taking into consideration land use patterns and human settlement strategies. An important starting point for the development of the railway sector is the preparation of the Government’s vision for transport system that is sustainable in the long term, taking into consideration, the goals, strategies and economic frameworks as highlighted for both the road and rail sectors. The government is restructuring the railway industry to allow the private sector to participate in railway business and the Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) has been established to manage the reforms.

Looking Ahead
For an enduring revival of the railway network, it is necessary to recreate in the sector the will and discipline to perform. The first basic step towards revival must be for Government to project a realistic vision of the future railway and demonstrate the unequivocal will and discipline to initiate reforms.
Modernizing our antiquated railways is a catch-up project to haul Ghana’s transport system into the early 21st century. It will be a get-ahead project which will initiate several other projects in the rest of the century. The Institute shall work with Government to ensure a safe, reliable and efficient railway system, fit for the 21st century which will attain world-class status symbol and a source of pride for the nation. The development of the railways should be a source of immense economic growth and projected to absorb much of the capital investment of the industrial programme. By enabling goods to be transported more easily, more cheaply and on a larger scale it shall generate demand from other industries.

Ghana’s steel, aluminum and cement industries must be developed simultaneously to supply the requisite materials to develop the railway sector. The State and the private sector should actively partner in the railway development process; the state leveraging its power to acquire land, credit, equity and finance for the take-off, while the private sector providing innovation, knowledge and engineering. On completion, the State’s shareholding could be offloaded to the private sector.
The Institute shall work with decision-makers, policy advisers and rail industry managers in identifying policies and investments which will enable the rail industry to make the most effective contribution to economic growth and development while meeting safety, social and environmental standards.