The Minister of Railway Development, Joe Ghartey, has revealed that ongoing rail constructions which should have seen completion by end of August 2020, have halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as over 70 workers undertaking the construction tested positive for the virus.
Speaking on the Role of Rail in Multimodal Connectivity and Economic Growth in Ghana, the Railway Minister revealed that COVID-19 has significantly affected all rail projects across the country.
“The thing that disturbed us the most was that we were about to do the 300 meters across the Volta river and the infamous COVID-19 came and affected the project. When the President announced the lockdown he excluded railways and roads thankfully. But what happened was that over 70 workers in the camp got the virus,” he said.
According to Joe Ghartey, who is also the Member of Parliament for Essikado-Ketan Constituency, although the affected patients have so far recovered, construction works is yet to resume on the various rail lines.
“Thanks be to God all of them have recovered and the Ministry of health in the Eastern region have written that all have recovered and they will be getting to work soon,” he added.
Again, he revealed that the government will give a cash injection to salvage the losses of the Ghana Railway Company Ltd who haven’t been paid for three months because they couldn’t make money from both working on the passenger and cargo lines due to the fact that they were also halted as a result of COVID-19.
“All our work across the railway sector have been affected by the Covid-19. Ghana Railway Company revenue has gone down and they had to shut down their passenger services because they want to observe social distancing and they run at a massive loss,” the Railways Minister asserted.
The Minister assured of his outfit’s commitment to ensure the over 20billion worth of railway projects being undertaken by government stays on course.
He said because the national rail network is capital intensive, government has adopted different financial modules for different segments of the rail lines.
These financial modules include one that government will directly invest its money in, as well as parts which would be on a build, operate and transfer investment module by foreign investors who would bring on board capital, human resource expertise, and modern technology.
“What will happen in some of the lines is that government will be putting its money in various parts of the line while looking for strategic partners,” he stated.
He revealed that the Ministry of Railways has arrived at a shortlist of 3 foreign investors where one would be selected in August to construct the rest of the eastern line to complete the lines from Mpakadan to Paga.
The said line will connect Ghana with the Sahelian regions where a lot of goods are transited to and from Ghana. He said the masterplan of Government is also to extend both the central spine rail lines from Accra to Kumasi to Tamale and Paga to connect to the northern frontier and western rail lines in order to enjoy the full benefits of all the lines.
Joe Ghartey, who is a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice asserted that government would make way for private participation for the branch lines that would connect to cities and the main national lines.
Joe Ghartey disclosed that, the Government of Ghana ambitiously plans to provide light rail infrastructure within the inner city to solve the problem of heavy traffic in Accra and other traffic-laden areas.
He stated that the year 2004 was the last time cocoa was carted on the western line and this has negatively impacted the cost of doing cocoa business.
In order to address this, the Minister of Railway Development stated that the western lines which are currently being revamped will relieve the pressure suffered by roads which get constantly destroyed by heavy duty vehicles carrying goods.
“One of the reasons why the Tarkwa and all the other roads are spoilt is because of the heavy trucks that are moving on the road.
If we don’t build the railway to take away heavy trucks on the roads then the roads will get spoilt again,” he stressed.
The Minister of Railway Development, Joe Ghartey denied assertions that hauliers who use the road corridors are sabotaging the construction of rail lines due the perceived threat to their businesses and opined that the railways would rather create alternative business for them.
Joe Ghartey disclosed that consultations have been done with all local and traditional authorities in areas where constructions are undergoing and they have given their full commitment towards the successful completion of railway projects despite some socio-economic consequences that may be suffered in the interim.
“The Chiefs have been wonderful from North to South. The minister for Local Government, the DCEs we have had excellent relationship with them,” he noted.