From Marlvin-James Dadzie, Takoradi
Workers of the Ghana Railways Company Limited (GRCL) have painted a gloomy picture of the country’s rail sector, urging government to take immediate steps to revive it.
According to the workers, though some gains have been made in the sector over the past three years, the future still looks bleak without the construction of the Western Rail Line.
Addressing a press conference in Takoradi yesterday, the General Secretary of the Ghana Railways Workers Union, Mr. Goodwill Ntarmah, said he is unable to fathom why government has still not extended the line from Kojokrom to Awaso to pave way for the carting of bauxite to the Takoradi harbour.
“We’re aware of a pre-financing contract to M/S Amandi company for the construction of railway lines from Kojokrom to Eshiem, though a good initiative, what we have been calling for is a complete award of contract from Kojokrom to Awaso to really secure our jobs as workers and also to ensure employment opportunities for others and not a piece meal approach as is being witnessed now”
“In view of the foregoing we are once again calling for the revamping of the Western Railway Line to save the GRCL from total collapse”, he said.
“It is important to note that the revamping of the Western Railway Line will save the government the annual ritual of dolling out millions of cedis to repair roads in the Western Region simply because of the activities of bulk haulage of goods on the road”, he said.
The Ghana Manganese Company which he described as the backbone of the GRCL, has also ceased operations since the beginning of December 2019, a situation which he said has adversely affected the GRCL.
Mr. Ntarmah said due to the poor financial situation of GRCL, social security deductions of workers has not been paid to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) for the past nine months.
He said Tier Two pension contributions were also in arrears for over year, adding that, workers’ welfare dues and credit union contributions were all in arrears of 11 and 10 months respectively.
He also bemoaned the recent move by government to sign an agreement with the Ghana National Association of Garages (GNAG) for the refurbishment of coaches, a job he said could have been done by rail workers.
But speaking to journalists in Essikado to respond to some of the concerns shortly after the press conference, the Minister for Railways Development, Mr. Joe Ghartey, said there was no cause for alarm.
“We’re very serious about the Western Railway Line”, he said, adding that due processes were being followed to undertake the entire western stretch.
He said an agreement between government and the Ghana Bauxite Company has been done to fully complete the Western Railway Line, stretching from Kojokrom to Awaso by 2023.
On the issue concerning the Ghana Manganese Company, he explained that government has capped the extraction of manganese by the company to 5 million tons per annum and that the company has met that threshold for 2019 that is why it is not operating for December, adding that the company would resume operations in January 2020.
He said the capping was to preserve enough manganese for the country’s budding steel industry.
Touching on issues of SSNIT contributions, he said he was in serious talks with the Ministry of finance to address the issue.
On the contract with GNAG for the refurbishment of coaches, he explained that the said contract was signed by GRCL itself.
He called for calm and assured Ghanaians of the government’s commitment to revive the rail sector.