The government of Ghana wants a consortium to build and operate a 330km narrow gauge rail link that will connect the new port development at Tema with Accra, the country’s capital, and the city of Kumasi in the centre of the country.
With only around 13% of its railway network currently operating, Ghana has issued a request for expressions of interest, with a deadline of 23 February for receipt of applications.
The project will include the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the line, as well as the provision of rolling stock, station upgrades, signalling and communication equipment. The line will have a speed of around 150km/h for passengers. As yet, no budget has been suggested for the scheme, although if the cost per kilometre is similar to Nigeria’s coastal railway, the cost will be something like $1bn.
The railway is vital if Ghana is to make its $1.5bn scheme to triple the capacity of Tema worthwhile. This project is presently being undertaken by a joint venture between French operator Bolloré and its Dutch counterpart APM Terminals, with US giant Aecom on board to manage the construction works.
The existing network, with the dates it was built
Tema will be complemented by the Boankra dry port at Kumasi. Work on this was begun in 1990, but the scheme was never completed.
The Eastern Railway project is part of the Ghana Railway Development Authority’s railway masterplan. This programme of works, which will unfold in six stages, is intended to modernise the country’s network and add another 4,000km to its length.
According to the government of Ghana, only 130km of the 947km network is operational at present. Most of the network was built in the 1920s or before; no new development has taken place since 1956. In most rural areas, the tracks are overgrown with weeds.
In December last year, the government held an international conference in Accra to get an idea of whether international firms were interested in the scheme.
One of the attendees, Donald Kress, chief executive of US company Railnet International, commented at the time: "One reason why we are here is that Ghana wants to build the rail system. They have realized the economic viability of having a solid rail system."
Top image: A diesel locomotive in Kumasi. Only about 13% of Ghana’s rail network is in working order (Creative Commons)