More than 100 years ago, Lord Luggard said that “Africa ‘s problems can be summarized in terms of transport,” and 100 years later, transport, especially urban transport, remains one of Africa’s biggest problems.

The railway sector had not seen any major improvement since its creation by the colonial government in the early twentieth century until Nana Akufo Addo’s government came to power in 2017. It was outdated and completely insufficient. The subsequently founded Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) was under-resourced and incapable of fulfilling its mandate. Worse, funds planned for the construction of the railway network was diverted for the use of other government businesses.

Over recent decades, spatial trends suggest a movement towards a more diffused pattern of settlement, typically known as urban sprawl. National strategies have been set out to directly address sprawl in a variety of countries, but sprawl has become pervasive in most. The construction of new towns with sufficient rail links to major cities has been a critical instrument used to fight urban sprawl. In several nations around the world, this has also contributed to the concentrated growth of residential areas. Unfortunately, even in the face of all these benefits that urban dwellers could enjoy from an efficient urban and hinterland rail system, successive governments didn’t pay much attention to its development.

The Akufo-Addo government agreed in 2017 to disassociate the Ministry of Railways Development from the Ministry responsible for Transport, and this initiative was intended to attract the much-needed attention needed for the sector to be revamped. For larger cities facing periods of decline, railway projects provide opportunities. Railway-related concerns, whether the development of high-speed rail terminals, the construction of high-quality office areas near railway stations or the implementation of light rail systems, have become important topics in the policies established by the new Ministry of Railways Development. The Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA), owner of all railway facilities, developer and regulator of the sector, and Ghana Railway Company Ltd (GRCL), the operator of existing rail services, are the two agencies under the Ministry of Railways Development.

The construction of Ghana’s railway infrastructure is now planned and available to investors under the Railway Master Plan (RMP) established by Team Engineering SPA in 2013. The RMP envisages the construction of 4008 km of railway lines over the next 33 years, beginning in 2015, at an estimated cost of approximately US$21.50 billion. The primary objective of the Authority is to develop the network in collaboration with the private sector under various financing models, including BOT and PPP arrangements, according to the RMP. The specifics of the development sequence and the modalities, including the key technical features, are provided in the RMP report. What is evident, however is the systematic move from the existing cape (Narrow), to the new standard gauge, for all newly built network lines.

The Railway Masterplan of Ghana

The Railway Masterplan of Ghana

The current railway network consists of three routes: Western, Eastern and Central, running for approximately 940 km along with several branch lines. They are narrow (Cape) gauge, single track tracks, constructed during the colonial era and were used for both freight and passenger traffic. This railway network, along with the rolling stock, has degraded over the years due to a lack of maintenance and is currently in a state of disrepair and is unable to guarantee efficient and safe transport.

Since 2017, the current NPP government has given priority to the need to take account of the needs of northern Ghana, the bordering countries and the priorities of ECOWAS for the reconstruction, extension and growth of the entire national network, and to identify a roadmap for a new rail network.

With this as a basis, the following steps for the recovery and expansion of the network have been established as shown below:

Stage 1: Reconstruction of existing lines

Only two of the three existing lines have been rehabilitated: The Western Line (Takoradi-Awaso-Kumasi) and the Eastern Line (Accra-Tema-Kumasi), spanning approximately 668 km in total, including the Awaso and Prestea branches. The Central Line is not very attractive to freight and passenger traffic, which should be replaced by the proposed Coastal Line in successive phases.

The lines will remain narrow-gauge, but will be upgraded and adapted to the current technical specifications for all infrastructure, while the sleepers will be conditioned for the eventual conversion of the lines to the standard gauge.

Traffic allocations mean that the Western Line has a higher capacity for freight transport and in particular, for mining, while the Eastern Line is more suitable for passenger transport.

On the basis of the surveys and verifications carried out it is proposed to carry out repairs to the small number of existing rolling stock fleets that it is still theoretically feasible to rehabilitate without the procurement of any new vehicles, thus preventing any additional costs in view of the potential transition to standard gauge tracks.

Stage 2: Central Corridor extension

The doubling of the track of the two rehabilitated lines in Phase 1 and the upgrade to the standard gauge of the previously modernized track, thereby creating two modern double-track lines on freight and passenger traffic routes with high demand.

Construction of a new single-track standard gauge line running from Kumasi to Tamale and Paga in the North.  This procedure encompasses about 1161 km.

Step 3: Enlargement of the Transversal Connections

Construction of transverse links for the Tamale-Yendi, Fufulsu-Sawla, Techiman-Kwadwokurom and Nyinahin-Kumasi stretches, always with standard gauge single tracks, for a total of approximately 484km.

Step 4: Enlargement of the Trans-ECOWAS Line

This is mainly a coastal line that runs from Aflao (near the border with Togo) westwards to Tema-Accra-Cape Coast-Takoradi-Tarkwa-Omanpe for a total of approximately 498 km, with a standard single-track gauge.

5th stage: Enlargement of the Western Line

Northwards extension of the

Initial Western Line to enter the future mines and connect them.

The line starts from Dunkwa- Awaso and stretches for a total of approximately 729 km towards Techiman, Sawla and Hamile  

Step 6: Prolongation of the Eastern Line

This is a new route to the east of Ghana, near the border with Togo, which reaches the river port of Akosombo from Tema and stretches over Volta Lake to Mpakadan and then heads north to Ho and Yendi for a total of approximately 468km.

Based on the study of the current transport system and the Government of Ghana’s proposed development plan for the expansion of existing railway infrastructures, a description of the ‘Modern Railway Network’ has been established in a future scenario. This scenario envisages the infrastructure and services needed to meet the rising demand for mobility in Ghana.

Rehabilitation and extension of existing lines will be carried out by the New Railway Network. The new railway network will be established in successive phases on the basis of the objectives defined for demand for traffic and reorganization. It is of strategic significance in the Ghanaian Railway Development Plans and follows essential steps for the reorganization of transport and the reclassification of the areas to be crossed: railway stations, provincial and urban railway services, transport routes for mineral products. On a supranational level, the new network constitutes a fundamental aspect of the Trans-ECOWAS Network, and also an important link to the northern, landlocked countries.

The Ghana Railways Development Authority has followed the blue-print on the Ghana Railway Masterplan devotedly since 2017. In effect, in the first phase, 668 km of the original narrow-gauge line will be rehabilitated and an additional 3340 km of new lines will be added to the network, and the first phase will be converted to standard gauge. With an investment of US$21.58 billion, a total of 4008km of lines will be completed in 33 years. This means that if this plan is pursued to the heart, the whole “food basket” of Ghana will be linked by rail by 2026 and this will dramatically reduce food prices in Ghana.

Government must promulgate a policy as a matter of urgency that will put all potential 1D1F factories on a railway line to assist in finished goods exports and raw materials imports.

The suburban service from Accra to Asoprochona was placed into service in 2007under President John Agyekum Kufuor’s government. The continuation of the line was introduced in 2009. A newly constructed cape gauge line distance was completed and commissioned in 2010. The total constructed track length is 10.1 kilometers, including platforms at stations in Tema and Asoprochona. Also commissioned were two Diesel multiple train units. Amandi Holding Limited carried out the project and was supervised by the Ghana Highway Authority and Ghana Railway Company Limited.

In 2011, the government decided to extend the railway line from Tema harbor to Tema Community 1. The project began in 2011 and was finished and commissioned in February 2012. The key features of the project include the semi-automatic barrier arm system at all four level crossings, two platforms at Halt at the fishing Harbour in the Community One Station. With an additional siding line at Community One Station, a track route length of 3.5 km was built.

For a smooth operation within the supply chain, transport interfaces are also very relevant. Therefore, the Ghana Railway Development Authority completed 5 railway stations and commissioned them.

On the Western route, the Takoradi-Sekondi through Kojokrom sub-urban railway line was also constructed. The project, which began on 1 November 2012, was scheduled to be completed in eighteen (18) months, but had to be extended for a further 14 (14) months. The main features of the project include the construction of a total track length of 14.5 km. The construction of three new railway stations at Sekondi, Kojokrom and Butuah; the refurbishment of Takoradi station; the construction of four stops at Sekondi, Ketan, Essaman and Bakado. Two sets of Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) trains have been procured under the project and two locomotives with six coaches have been rehabilitated.

The GRDA completed the proposal and commissioned it in September 2017.

The Rehabilitated Takoradi Railway Terminal

One of the biggest railway projects undertaken by this government is the construction of the single standard gauge railway line from Tema to Mpakadan (Akosombo). The contract between GRDA, Ghana, and AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd of India for this project was signed in November 2016. The project is funded by the USD 398.33 million Exim Bank of India, comprising 84.8 km of new rail construction.

Construction work began on October 2nd, 2017. This is part of the Multi-Modal Transport System for the Eastern Corridor connecting the Tema and Akosombo Ports.

The following are covered by the project:

1. Construction of railhead installations at Tema Harbour, including a container stacking area.

2. Rolling stock maintenance depot building.

3. Building three new stations

4. Construction of Mpakadan rail head installations and container stacking area.

State of the art provision of the Signaling and Telecommunication System.

In 2018, from “Tema – Akosombo” to what it is now, “Tema-Mpakadan,” the contract name was officially changed. A variety of considerations, including safety concerns and technical concerns, warranted this in so far as the planned alignment uncomfortably placed the train line close to the very aging hydroelectric dam – within 500 meters of the dam. The realignment has cost consequences, but not in time. With an additional cost component of USD 48 m, the total km length scales to 97.78 km. The official completion date is 2 July 2021.

The “Tema-Mpakadan” line is a significant inter-modal line that eventually links Ghana to Burkina Faso and the other land-locked countries of Mali and Niger, starting from the depths of the ongoing port expansion in Tema.

On-going Construction at Akosombo

The Eastern Railway Corridor from Accra to Nsawam (25 miles) or 40km is currently being rehabilitated by the Ghana Railway Company Ltd. The Tema line was completed in March 2019 from Achimota to Tema station (16.67 miles) or km.

The cumulative track length to be rehabilitated is 41 miles (67 km)

Rehabilitation of the Kojokrom to Tarkwa line is completed and passenger services have begun as of August 2019. The Government of Ghana (GOG) and the Ghana Manganese Company financed this (GMC).

Together with the Ministry of Railway Development, having reviewed the Ghana Railway Master Plan, the Ghana Railway Development Authority has identified particular stages of the Master Plan as priority projects for the next few years. The initial planned timeline was from July 2016 to June 2020 for the completion of these priority projects. These priority projects are Phase 2 and in Phase 3 and Phase 5 of the Master Plan.

Phase 2 covers approximately 1234 kilometers in total. It includes the building of the following:

Takoradi – Kumasi (Western) Line (339km) (with branch line from Dunkwa to Awaso)

 Accra – Kumasi (Eastern) (300km)

 Kumasi – Paga Rail (Central Spine (595 km)

The lines in Step 3 that have been included for the next four years in priority projects are as follows:

Nyinahin-Kumasi (58 km)

Tamale – Yendi (102 km)

The total length of the Priority Projects rail network is 1394 kilometers. It will create jobs and facilitate trade and industrial development by implementing those priority projects. This would drive economic development in turn. New cities and towns will be built in the process, and older towns will be revitalized. Railway projects would remove the pressure on the road network and allow longer lifespans for newly built roads. The growth of the railway sector would turn the economy around completely.

In the growth of the railway network, in the provision of related services and in the development of associated infrastructure, there are endless opportunities for the private sector. The Government of Ghana and the GRDA welcome different types of private sector collaboration in the growth of the railway network, the provision of railway services and related infrastructure in Ghana.

All the lines that were constructed between 2016-2020 will be for both freight and passenger use. Circumstances beyond the control of the GRDA have given rise to the necessary review if the completion date is 2020. As Covid-19 is a component, each line is therefore signed with its individual end dates.

Takoradi- Takoradi (Western Line 339 Km)

The Western Rail Line, with a branch line from Dunkwa to Awaso, runs from Takoradi Port to Kumasi. It is a total of 339 kilometers. Today it is arguably the line that lends itself most readily to a BOT (Build-Operate and Transfer) or BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) Model of financing. This is due to the presence of multiple off-takers on the path and potential off-takers.

In November 2017, a contract was signed with Amandi Holdings Ltd. for the commencement of construction on the Western Line of the new Standard Gauge railway line between Kojokrom and Eshiem. This was only for a rail length of 5km.

A further 17 km of the current Standard Gauge rail contract between Eshiem and Manso was subsequently signed with Amandi Holdings Ltd in February 2018, for a total of 22 km. These two contracts were amalgamated in August 2020 into one. In April 2019, GRDA signed a USD 500 million deal with the China Railway WUJU Group Corporation to continue the construction of the Standard Gauge Western Railway Line from 23 km to Dunkwa, with a total length of 100 km. Due to delays in releasing the contract sum from the Chinese Development Bank (CDB), the project financer, this project has hit a snag.

The Government of Ghana has approved the signing by the Ghana Railways Development Authority (GRDA) and Amandi Holdings Ltd of a new 500 million Euro (USD 540 million) contract. This agreement was signed in August 2020 and included parts of the Western Line between Manso and Huni Valley, among others. It also covered the conversion into a Standard Gauge line of the 30km convertible gauge between Sekondi – Takoradi via Kojokrom. A new Standard Gauge line from Takoradi Station to Takoradi Harbour was included as well.

In September 2020, the GRDA also signed a contract for the construction of a 6 km Standard Gauge line from Kumasi (Adum) to Kaasi with David Walter Ltd., a wholly owned Ghanaian Civil Engineering firm. Negotiations for the continuation of the line with David Walters Ltd. from Kaasi to Eduadin are well advanced. It’s around 11km long. In total, for a contract amount of USD 143m, David Walters Ltd will have signed 17km between Kumasi and Eduadin. In September 2020, GRDA again signed a contract with AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd. for a US$ 419 m Standard Gauge line of 65 km from Eduadin to Obuasi. The length of the contract is 36 months.

This lane has two mines on it. At Nsuta, Ghana Manganese Mine is 64 km from the port of Takoradi and depends on the railway as well as the road from Nsuta to the port of Takoradi for transporting manganese. Its preferred mode of transport is by rail, and it is due to the inefficiency of the current narrow-gauge railway line that, in addition to rail transporting manganese to the Takoradi Port, it is obliged to use the road. In Awaso, 239 km from Takoradi, there is also a bauxite mine. In the past, this mine used the rail network, but now transports all of its bauxite by road to the port of Takoradi because the railway line between Awaso and Nsuta is no longer operational near Tarkwa. Oppong Manso, which is also along the Western Border, has approximately 150 million tons of iron ore reserves. This remains to be exploited. Cocoa is also produced in industrial quantities along the corridor and cocoa was transported in large quantities by rail prior to the collapse of much of the Western Line. 2006 was the last time cocoa was shipped by rail using the Western Line.

The building of the railway line would also benefit from the transport of other bulk cargo, such as cement, mining equipment and petroleum. Just 66 km from Takoradi to Nsuta is operational out of a total route length of 339 km. US$ 1,898,400.00 is the total investment needed to build a single standard gauge rail line along the Western Line. Front End Engineering Designs have been completed and the government is able to name an EPC Contractor and Funding Model Transaction Advisor. Significant proposals, including proposals for BOT and BOOT, have been received. The Western Line is also linked to the Central Spine, which ends at Paga on the border with Burkina Faso.

Accra- Eastern Kumasi Line 300 Km

With a branch line from Accra to Tema, the Eastern Line covers a distance of 300 km from Accra to Kumasi. The rest of the line is in disrepair and inoperative, apart from the 20 km Accra – Tema Line, which is used for passenger services.

Between Accra and Kumasi is the town of Kibi. Large bauxite deposits of around 180 million metric tons can be located here. Mt. Ejuanema has 5 million metric tons of bauxite on the Eastern Line, too. There is still no exploitation of both deposits. The Eastern Line is also connected to the Central Spine, which ends at Paga on the border with Burkina Faso. It has capacity both for large passenger and freight traffic. On the Eastern Rail Line also lies a planned Logistics hub (Boankra Inland Port).

Price Water House Coopers (PwC) served as this line’s Transaction Advisors. For the construction of the line, they have completed all the tender phases. Short listings is sorted out for a final preferred bidder. It is predicted that a deal will be signed by the end of 2020. The approximate cost of this line is USD 1,680,000,000.

Kumasi- Paga Central Spine Line 595 Km

In the Central part of Ghana, the Central Spine will connect Kumasi to Paga, which is in the North, on the border with Burkina Faso. 595 km is the Central Spine. It would facilitate the transport of passengers and cargo from the South to the North of Ghana and to Burkina Faso and the Sahelian Region if created. This will bring the economy through a significant transition. The Central Line divides into two lines at the Kumasi junction: the Eastern Line and the Western Line.

A commercial contract with the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) as the chosen contractor on this route was signed by the Ministry of Railway Development in April 2019. CCECC has conducted pre-feasibility studies on financial, economic, social and environmental studies, as well as surveys and right-of-way mapping, pending the requisite statutory approvals. This line’s projected cost is US$3,332,000,000.

Kumasi- Nyinahini (58 Km)

With a branch extension from Kumasi, this line is 58 km. Its significance is that it has 750 million metric tons of bauxite that is yet to be used in Nyinahin. The line’s total expense is US$324,800,000.

Tamale- Yendi (102 Km)

It’s 102 km on this line. 2.7 billion metric tons of unexploited iron ore are located at Yendi (Sheni). The line is the Central Spine Line branch. The line’s estimated cost is US$571,200,000.

Tema- Paga (Via Yendi-Tamale (710km)

This is where the Ghana-Burkina Faso rail link is routed. The cost is approximately USD 2.982 billion. This line provides direct rail access between Ghana and Burkina Faso, and the Sahelian region, via the Tema-Mpakadan line. When completed, it provides a major economic corridor. The Port of Tema will be able to better serve its contestable hinterlands (Sahelian regions) of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso etc. Container throughput at the various container terminal will be way lower than current data as the containers will spend less time at the terminals and this will reduce demurrage and detention charges on shippers and generally reduce cost of doing business within the Tema Port. Because of the connectivity at Mpakadan (near Akosombo), the Akosombo area could become a huge “Container holding area” for containers yet to be transported up North via barges and rafts and thereby, create economic activities for the Adjacent towns such as Atimpoku and Akrade.

Urban Railway (Metro/Light Railway)

Feasibility studies for the construction of the light railway network in Accra and Kumasi have been completed. This is a strategic plan for traffic decongestion when it is done.

Residents living on the peripherals of Accra such as Adenta and Kasoa will have ease in mobility and reduced travel time.

Conclusion

Team Engineering SPA of Italy, the original compiler of the RMP, has been retained by the Ghana Railways Development Authority to conduct a strategic review of the RMP. Several considerations have made this important since the introduction of the new RMP in 2013. Major bauxite deposits, for example, were subsequently discovered in Kibi on Ghana’s Eastern Line, which needs railway connectivity. In addition, a new Free Zones enclave in Shama has since been established on the Western Line that could use critical rail connectivity. Other considerations include the link by rail of all ten (10) current regional capitals, plus the six (6) newly formed regional capitals.

Team Engineering brings together responses from more than 150 invited stakeholders (public and private) to provide a framework for the analysis of the current RMP. The impact of Covid-19 had an impact on the stakeholder conference being convened. Nonetheless, the consultant has requested a final draft RMP. Formal outdoor events are expected to take place very soon.

The Nana Akufo Addo government has awakened the railway sector and this time around, it is here to stay as a resurrected, rebranded, resourced, and well-maintained industry.

****

About Author; Dr. Evans Ago Tetteh is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Regional Maritime University, Accra.