The planned reintroduction of passenger rail services between Accra and Tema and Accra and Nsawam today, January 8, 2019, has been put on hold.
This is because of the persistent activities of encroachers and illegal occupants within the railway reservation.
Activities of hawkers
The trespassers took advantage of the Christmas and New Year break and returned to the railway reservation (buffer zone), after they had been cleared off the rail lines about five times.
Some of the areas where people are living and trading very close to the railway line and level crossings are Circle, Avenor, the Graphic Road, Achimota, the Nyaho Clinic area and Dzorwulu.
Two weeks ultimatum
Briefing the Daily Graphic after a tour of the tracks, the Minister of Railway Development, Mr Joe Ghartey, said officials of the Ghana Railway
Company Limited (GRCL) had agreed to postpone the reintroduction of the service by two weeks to allow them to take steps to secure the railway track, the right of way and the railway reservation.
He said last Friday he was accompanied by the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah; the Managing Director of the GRCL, John
Essel, and other officials on a test ride which revealed the obvious return of human activity to the railway line in earnest in the past few weeks.
“We realised that the encroachers were back, almost back onto the line, from Achimota to Tesano, Avenor, the Graphic Road, among other places,” he said, adding that human activities on the tracks were threatening the stability of the lines.
Mr Ghartey explained that when there was human movement on the tracks, “it destabilises the balance and makes the train unstable”.
Safety and security
While commending the GRCL for the work done so far and other steps, such as providing insurance for passengers, the minister urged the company to use the two weeks to ensure the safety and security of passengers.
Mr Ghartey charged the GRCL to liaise with the Ghana Railways Development Authority and report to the ministry within 10 days on the progress made.
The minister requested, among others, that railway stations and the service should be made disability friendly and that the Ghana National
Fire Service (GNFS) should be contacted to undertake a fire audit of the proposed operation and advise accordingly.
He hinted that the ministry was considering the possibility of fencing certain critical areas to keep encroachers away from the railway line.
Mr Ghartey said in certain jurisdictions, such as India and China, they had resorted to building walls and fencing along the railway lines to prevent encroachment.
He lamented the fact that some of the encroachers had resorted to building concrete structures at the rail reservation areas, with the hope that if they were being evicted they would be compensated.
“I want to make it clear that no compensation will be given to anyone, and for that matter those contemplating doing that should desist from it,” Mr Ghartey explained.
The minister said the huge number of people around the railway line caused the train to reduce its normal speed of 80 kilometres per hour to 20 kilometres per hour.
In a related development, Mr Ghartey has said as part of its oversight responsibility, the ministry will contact the Paa Grant University of Mines and Technology, subject to approval from the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), to undertake a safety audit of all railway operations being undertaken and provide recommendations which will form the basis of a comprehensive railway sector safety policy.