2,500 bed capacity hostel for UMaTdelays over land dispute

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Prof. Richard K. Amankwa has appealed to the Minister for Railways Development to approve the pending agreement between UMaT and the Ministry to fully operationalise the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two.

According to him, when the MOU is operationalised, it would help in the development of the UMaT School of Railway and Infrastructure Development (SRID) to achieve its mandate and also to prevent future litigation.

He said currently, a private investor was ready to build a 2,500 bed capacity hostel for the students of SRID, but the deal is delaying because there is no evidence that the land belongs to them.

The UMat Vice Chancellor was speaking at the first Rail Transport Observance Day at UMat School of Railways and Infrastructure Development at Essikado, near Sekondi, over the weekend.

The Day was on the theme “Ghana’s Rail Transport, Challenges and Future Prospect”.

The UMat SRID became operational in 2021 and has currently 800 students population from seven BSC engineering and seven certificate programmes.

The certificate programmes tailored for the Railway sector include; Locomotive Engineering, Signalling and Telecommunication, Railway Planning and Operations, Survey and Mappings amongst many others.

Prof.Amankwa showed appreciation to all stakeholders for their efforts towards the establishment of the SRID, with special mention of the former Minister of Railway Development, Joe Ghartey.

He was optimistic that with the involvement of the Omanhene of Essikado, Nana Kobina Nketia, and the Regional Minister amongst others, various academic, residential and road infrastructure would be built to expand the school and enable it contribute more to the education and socio-economic development of Sekondi-Takoradi.

“Nana Chair, I believe that through a synergic association between sectors and interdisciplinary research that drives information, SRID will make progress. The Railways industry is part of the solution to a sustainable future and UMaT will continue to play its role to ensure national development,” he said.

Touching on the rational for the Rail Transport Observance Day, Prof. Richard Amankwa pointed out that sustainable development was about creating a balance between meeting the needs of a growing population and the health of our planet by embracing environmental sustainability.

Without any mode of transport, the UMaT VC said there would be no trade to foster the survival of our communities.

Quoting the International Energy Agency, he said railway transport was one of the most energy-efficient transport modes responsible for 9% of global motorised passenger movement and 7% of freight shipping, but only 3% of transport energy use.

With that in mind, he said rail plays an important role in addressing many of the SDG-some directly and some indirectly.

However, despite the importance rail transport plays in an economy, the sector, he observed, had not lived up to expectations to spearhead national development.

It was in this regard that the University thought it wise to champion the day, in solidarity with the gallant railway staff who work tirelessly for the benefit of this country and also come together and share ideas on the sustainable implementation of the railway master plan for Ghana.

The Minister for Railway Developments, Peter Amewu, whose address was read on his behalf observed that due to decades of poor maintenance, neglect and inadequate investment by successive governments, only 15% of the existing narrow gauge railway network was operational.

He said in a strategic effort to develop the overall rail transport system in Ghana, government has carved out rail transport mode from other modes of transport and prioritised its development, in order for it to serve as a catalyst for the industrialisation and socio-economic development of the country.

The government has, therefore, developed a railway Masterplan to serve as a guide for the fulfilment of the Ministry’s mandate to systematically modernise and expand the railway network in the country, starting with the rehabilitation of the existing narrow gauge network.

However, the Minister pointed out that due to the deterioration of the old narrow gauge network and its corresponding high cost of rehabilitation, a policy decision was taken by government not to rehabilitate the entire network save limited sections from Accra through Tema to Nsawam on the eastern line and Sekondi-Takoradi through Kojokrom to Tarkwa on the western line, in order to operate passenger rail services.

This, he said, was to keep the system running with existing fleet of narrow gauge rolling stock, while steps are being taken to reconstruct and expand the entire network on a new standard gauge.

According to Minister Amewu, the western line, which stretches from Takoradi to Kumasi with a branch from Dunkwa to Awaso, used to be the major route for the transportation of major minerals and other bulk commodities.

Unfortunately, due to several decades of neglect and underfunding, the western line completely broke down, except for partial freight services on the Takoradi-Nsuta section.

The Ghana Railway Workers Union, on its part, argued that the rail sector arguably has the potential of solving most of the economic challenges facing the country, as well as the panacea to the unemployment situation.

For that reason, it was important that a day was set aside to critically examine the challenges and prospect of the sector.

The Union Genera Secretary, Godwill Ntarmah, whose address was read on his behalf, however, said the railway sector was bedevilled with a number of challenges and qualified to be called a highly indebted poor company.

He, however, requested the Ministry of Railway Development to arrange and conclude on the 2018 MOU between the Ministry and the school to ensure that as the original owners of the school, GRCL benefits from the progressive strides the school was making.

Nana Konina Nketiah V, Omanhene of Esskado who chaired the day, advised the students to use the knowledge they would acquire to liberate the country.

Present were the Regional Minister, Kwabena Okyere Darko Mensah, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of UMaT, Anthony Simmons, Yaw Owusu, Managing Director of Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) amongst others.


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