Barring any unforeseen developments, South Africa’s state-owned rail and freight operator, Transnet International Holdings, will establish its full presence in Ghana’s railway sector in the second quarter of the year.
The company says after the signing of initial agreements, it will start off with the redevelopment and maintenance of the Western Railway Line and refurbish and maintain existing locomotives and wagons for haulage.
Discussions between the Ministry of Railways and Transnet for the possibility of the latter investing in Ghana’s railway system began in 2018.
The discussions were given a boost in December last year at a ceremony attended by the South African President, Mr Cyril Rhamaphosa, and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at which Transnet signed an agreement with the Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) to redevelop Ghana’s abandoned narrow-gauge Western Railway Line.
At the moment, the authorities of Transnet have indicated their readiness to move in and provide ‘in-continent’ solutions to the challenges facing Ghana’s railway sector.
At a press briefing in Takoradi last Wednesday, the South African High Commissioner to Ghana, Ms Lulu Xingwana, said the time had come for Africans to find solutions to their challenges.
She said she was content with the progress of work since the signing of the pact between Ghana and South Africa last December.
“What is happening is in line with the current African Union (AU) and South African President, Cyril Rhamaphosa’s broader vision of ensuring that the continent’s infrastructure is developed, for which, under the circumstances, he has shown commitment to see Ghana’s railway sector developed,” she said.
“I am very happy that instead of seeking or finding solutions elsewhere, African countries (Ghana-South Africa) are working together to seek solutions to their challenges,” she added.
The Programmes Director of Transnet, Mr Wilson Mogoba, said there were opportunities in Ghana’s railway sector to warrant investing in it.
He said freight movement was the way to go to ensure that the industry became profitable, adding: “It makes economic sense to revamp the rail for haulage and complementary passenger services.”
He said commercial due diligence had already been undertaken by a team from Transnet which had given assurance of the commercial viability of the project, while there was also a nine-member team that was currently undertaking technical due diligence.
He said the team conducting technical due diligence would look at the line from Takoradi to Kumasi and Awaso to determine what needed to be done.
He said the team would also focus on the rolling stock; that is, take a look at the locomotives, wagons, coaches and workshops, after which the way would be cleared to move into action.
At present, freight movement of commodities, such as bauxite, manganese, cocoa, heavy equipment, cement, bulk fuel and inland cargo, is done by road, which poses a great threat to safety on the roads and decreases their lifespan.
Mr Mogoba said with Ghana chosen by the AU to host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area, revamping the rail sector was a very important move and South Africa was committed to the cause.
He lauded the Ghana Railways Company’s commitment and co-operation, as well as that of the GRDA and support from the sector ministry in the quest to get the best for Ghana’s railway development.
He said the level of commitment from the Ghanaian authorities dovetailed into Transnet’s vision to have the sector transformed.
The Programmes Director said the company had agreed to supply additional rolling stock and to mutually operate the Western Line, as well as develop skills to improve and run the sector effectively.