The Acting Managing Director of the Ghana Railways Company Limited (GCRL), Mr. John Essel has asked Ghanaians to be hopeful for a better railway sector as government works hard to holistically solve the challenges that confronted the rail sector in the past.
He says all the activities being undertaken by the Railway Development Ministry are geared towards revamping the country’s rail sector, permanently. According to him, the Ministry, led by the hardworking minister, Joe Ghartey who doubles as the MP for Essikado, home of Ghana’s railway, is implementing policies aimed at fixing all the aspects needed to have a vibrant railway system in Ghana.
Speaking to Skyy News in an exclusive interview, Mr Essel described the whole process, currently ongoing, as “a total solution.”
“It is a total solution in the sense that we are tackling every sense of our work. We are tackling the tracks; you’ve seen it yourself. There’s so much activities on the tracks from Kojokrom upwards. Then when you come to the workshops, we’re tackling the rehabilitation of the workshops; and that will improve the work environment for the maintenance of the locomotives, coaches, and the wagons that will be procured by the government,” he intimated.
Mr. Essel explained to this reporter that the Ministry for Railway Development, through the Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL), is undertaking several renovation works and restructuring to ensure that the railway sector is totally revamped to contribute immensely to the economy of the country.
The company, according to residents of Sekondi-Takoradi, was the leading employer having hundreds of people working for it, in the past. Unfortunately, the dwindling fortunes that engulfed the railway sector in the recent past resulted in several of those people losing their jobs, with others losing their lives through penury.
Mr. Essel said with the renaissance that the sector is witnessing recently, issues of non-payment of salaries resulting in workers becoming dejected, has become a thing of the past. He said the company has begun hiring, and a number of Ghanaians have been employed since.
Elaborating on the plans to train more hands for the railway sector, Mr. Essel stated “if you look at the human resource, we are rehabilitating the training school; we have signed an MOU with the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) so that they upgrade the work ethics of the railway man, and bring quality work into what we used to do before, and even to the extent that in the not too distant future, we should be able to award degrees in railway engineering and technology.”
According to sources within the Ghana Railway Company Limited, the company has suffered severe lack of infrastructure for a long time now; inadequate coaches and wagons. According to the Acting MD, because of the lack of these equipment, the company is currently able to haul only six hundred thousand (600,000) tons of manganese from the Ghana Manganese Company Limited in Tarkwa, out of three million tons they mine in a year.
As a result, the GRCL is seeking to get about one hundred and ten wagons from a possible partnership with South Africa’s Transnet International Holdings to help improve on the productivity of the company.
”And then after you have trained the human resource, created the right environment for them to work in, and looking at the tracks, you look at the coaches to run on them. We’re bringing in one hundred and ten (110) wagons, eight (8) locomotives, and twenty-four (24) coaches.
Mr Essel describes what is happening in the sector, and the rate at which they are happening as a ‘total package’.
“So you see that it is a complete package touching on every facets of the railway work, and then you look at the speed with which this has come into reality. We’ve had other interventions in the past, but whenever we undertook an activity, it took so much time to materialise. But with this current arrangement, in less than six (6) months, we are going to see new locomotives and coaches.
“It is unprecedented in the sense that if you look at the speed of development, it has never happened since I joined railways thirty-five years ago,” he told Skyy News.
Not going back.
The Acting Managing Director, Mr. Essel explained that the interventions that the Ministry of Railway Development is putting in place are being done in a way that will ensure that the railway sector does not suffer the very sad and unfortunate level of deterioration it descended to in recent past.
He explained that there were instances when the interventions that were implemented to help solve the challenges were not complete, “in the sense that you rehabilitate the tracks, and by the time you finish, the money won’t be enough to buy locomotives, and wagons, and so you will have rehabilitated tracks, but only have bad rolling stocks to run on them. So we were almost always moving in a vicious cycle. You get one aspect done, and the other aspect is not done.”
According to him, since everything is being worked on now, it will be difficult for the company to fall back to the ‘dark days’ again.
“But here is a case that everything is being worked on at the same time. So it is a total recovery that touches on all aspects of the railway operations, and this should not be able to take us back, because we are touching on every aspect of the operation. And this is the first time I’m seeing such an operation in my 35 years of working with railways,” he emphatically stated.
Story By: Samuel Kojo Brace/Skyy News/Takoradi.