Business News of 2014-02-12

Ghana Railways augments fleet

The Ghana Railways Company (GRC) has taken delivery of 70 new high capacity mineral wagons and steel sleepers from India to augment its capacity to haul manganese and bauxite.

In 2013, it hauled more than 1.032 million tonnes of manganese, representing 84 per cent of its set target of 1.2 million tonnes.

It is therefore expected that with the arrival of the new wagons, the company will be able to meet its target in the coming years, cut down cost of running its operations and place it in a better stead to generate more revenue to keep the company afloat.

In the year under review, the volumes hauled fetched the company revenue of GH¢10 million.

However, a chunk of the money was spent on equipment, fuel, maintenance and salary among other things.

Speaking to the GRAPHIC BUSINESS, the Head of Public Affairs, Mrs Elena Aikins, said the future of the rail sector was bright.

She was optimistic that with the appropriate investment, it could finance itself and post profit to become financially independent.

Challenges

She said currently, the lines working in the country were the Takoradi/Nsuta and the Accra/Tema lines; a situation she said was not the best.

Mrs Aikins said the operations of the company were being hampered by derailment due to poor tracks and rotten sleepers as well as the lack of spare parts for aged locomotives.

These factors, she said, had contributed greatly to the inability of the company to break even, let alone meet its set targets.

However, she said despite the huge challenges, the company’s fortunes have been improving each year.

“The company’s traffic performance in 2013 was an improvement over that of 2012 where we set a target haul 825,000 tonnes but ended up hauling 617,176 tonnes, being 74 per cent of the set target and improved performance in 2013 when hauling surged over a million and just slightly below the set target,” she said.

Passenger performance

On the Accra/Tema passenger service, she said passenger performance was not encouraging and attributed the phenomenon to the frequent breakdown of its multiple diesel units as well as the menace of non-ticket holders.

She added, “that notwithstanding, 971,183 passengers were carted out of the 2,156,858 targeted for 2013.

Manganese/Bauxite

Mrs Aikins said the main goods the company was hauling were manganese mainly from Nsuta to the Takoradi Port.

‘If only the Nsuta-Takoradi Port could give us over a million tons, you can imagine what will happen if the line from Nsuta to Awaso lines were also working for the hauling of bauxite,” Mrs Aikins said.

She said it was important to note that due to the bad nature of the lines from Nsuta to Awaso, there was no service at all on that route.

Theft by scrap dealers

Aside the much known challenges hampering the growth of the railway company such as derailment, sleeper damage, high labour cost among other things, a bigger challenge was the theft of the inactive lines that were awaiting rehabilitation. The sleepers and the rail lines have become a major source of raw material for the many scrap dealers who have flooded the entire country.

“We have a problem with the lines, but that is not the end of it, it will be repaired. However, many of our lines have been stolen by scrap dealers,” she said.

In Accra and many other cities, some people have, under the guise of being unemployed, found it convenient to steal any metal in sight.

Apart from the stealing of the rail lines which cost the taxpayers millions of Ghana cedis, these scrap dealers have also found the metal culverts on the streets, among others easy targets and are making money at the expense of the state.

Threat of galamsey

Mrs Aikins said illegal miners had also dug under the lines; a situation she said would be compounding the move to get the lines back in shape.

She said the galamsey was not only creating problem for water and environment but also seriously affecting their operations.

Other staff who spoke to the paper said, “if only government can complete the Nsuta-Awaso lines in addition to the Nsuta-Takoradi stretch with the improved wagons, we could change the fortune of the company.” Depleting staff strength

Currently, the company has a total of 1,879 members of staff. Majority of experienced staff are about to retire.

To make matters worse, the company is also not allowed to employ new hands because of its financial position.

Source: graphic.com
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