RECONSTRUCTION and expansion of the rail network in Ghana is expected to get underway before the end of this year, following the award of two 35-year concessions covering the country's Western and Eastern corridors. Transport Minister Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi pledged that 'we will leave no stone unturned' to revive the rail network.

On August 15 a consortium led by Dubai-based Kampac Oil Co and including China National Machinery Import & Export Corp signed a US$1·6bn BOT concession to develop the Western Railway, starting with the rehabilitation over an 18-month period of 400 km of Ghana Railway Corp's existing 1 067 mm gauge route linking Kumasi with the port of Takoradi.

Over the next five years, a 500 km line is to be constructed from the existing terminus at Awaso to Hamalie in the northwest, close to the border with Burkina Faso. This would run via Nyahin, Techiman, Bole, Sawla and Wa. The new line would later be extended to Takoradi, bringing the total length to around 800 km. As part of the concession, Kampac has been awarded mineral and mining rights in the region, valued at more than US$2bn.

For the Eastern Railway, the government awarded a US$1·4bn concession to local company Peatrack earlier this year. Transformation of the route leading north from Accra will start with modernisation of the lines to Tema and Nsawam to carry suburban services, followed by upgrading of the line to Kumasi via Ejisu.

Peatrack is expected to build north from the existing network, developing a line from Ejisu to the border region of Paga via Mampong, Tamale and Bolgatanga, with a branch serving Yendi and Sheini.

The government has allocated US$5·5m for the development of suburban services between Accra and Tema, of which US$5m will come through a grant from the OPEC fund. Test running is expected to start this month following repairs to a damaged bridge at Baatsonaa; in the longer term the use of DMUs is envisaged.