General News of Thu, 17 Jun 20040

GRC can operate viably without govt subvention -Ameyaw-Akumfi

Tema, June 17, GNA - The government is with the conviction that the Ghana Railways Company (GRC) can operate as a viable organisation and play its vital role in the achievement of the objective of the government's policy of Golden Age of Business.

There is the need therefore to re-engineer and re-orientate the railway system to operate as much as possible without government subvention, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Minister of Ports, Harbours and Railways has stated.

This was contained in a speech read for him by Alhaji Dauda Jawula, Chief Director of the Ministry at a three-day Eighth Quadrennial Delegates conference of the Railway Enginemen's Union (REU) of TUC on Thursday at Tema.

The conference is under the theme "Restructuring of Ghana Railway the Challenges and Prospects-The Role of the Union".

He said the government aims at transforming the Ghana Railways from its current fragmented, unprofitable state into a focused, profitable commercial enterprise, that is market driven and service-oriented hence "the need to concession the railways".

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The decision to concession the railway was taken after a national workshop of stakeholders and that the concessionaire is required to inject capital, improve productivity and quality of service at a competitive price and lower total cost to the economy.

The Minister expressed the belief that private sector involvement in Ghana's railway would be beneficial to users and also ease the financial burden on government.

He gave the assurance that "the selection of a suitable concessionaire is being done in a transparent, fair and open manner". To this end, the government is setting up a negotiating team that would be supported by technical experts to negotiate with the prospective companies and finally zero in on one firm.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi announced that the government would pass a new Railway Act and Ghana Railway Development Authority Act that would seek to regulate the construction, operation and safety of the railways as well as manage the post concession railway.

Already, he said, the draft acts has been prepared and submitted to cabinet for review before submission to the Attorney General's Office for drafting and later for promulgation into law by parliament. He was optimistic that the concession would bring the required capital injection and managerial capabilities to revitalise and revamp the sub-sector to improve operational facilities to enable passenger and freight traffic especially, export traffic to increase.

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In the long term however, the Ministry has also examined and recommended other operational areas for adoption such as mass rail service in urban centres, international freight services as well as link to strategic trade centres.

Mr Joseph Atopley, deputy Secretary-General (Administration) of TUC noted that rail has characteristics that could make it an attractive form of transport in the country.

This is because many possibilities already exist for improving and developing services and new areas of opportunity may open up, "it is for this reason that we request government to approach the issue of privatising the Ghana Railway Company with extreme care in order not to endanger the lives of commuters and staff of the company".

Mr Richard Okine, Acting General Secretary of Railway Enginemen's Union said as much as they agree that the current situation of the GRC demand a review of operation and other activities to achieve financial viability, the traditional way of railway should not be overlooked, especially its linkages with rural dwellers and the urban centres. He lauded government's decision for investors to expand the rail network to the neighbouring countries for more economic activities as it is in the right direction.

He said they are therefore watching with eagle eyes as vain promises have been made without fulfilling them and hope the government would demonstrate its commitment to its course. 17 June 04

Source: GNA

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