A CONSORTIUM led by South African rail operator Spoornet is reported to have been selected as preferred bidder for the concession to modernise and operate the rail network in Ghana.

CPCS Transcom is advising the government on the privatisation process. A ’rolling concession’ will start with an initial 20-year period followed by five-year extensions. The winning bidder is expected to form a local company to operate freight and passenger services, maintain and upgrade the infrastructure and manage railway property.

Three bidders submitted tenders at the end of March. The Spoornet/KMM/RMB consortium is understood to have offered to pay US$16m to lease the network, whereas UK-based United Rail offered US$600000 in monthly instalments. The third bidder was Ghana-based Railnet Ltd.

In a speech to the Railway Workers Union on July 23, Minister for Ports, Harbours & Railways Prof Christopher Ameyaw Akumfi said the government would facilitate the transformation of Ghana Railways ’from its current fragmented, unprofitable state into a focused, profitable commercial enterprise that is market-driven and service-oriented’. A new Railway Act and Ghana Railway Development Authority Act will regulate the construction, operation and safety of the network under private management, and provide for the government to ’retain ultimate control of infrastructure’.

Emmanuel Opoku, Acting Managing Director of Ghana Railways Corp, told delegates that the lack of investment had taken its toll, and that the 947 km network was ’at the crossroads waiting to be ushered into a new phase’. He reiterated that long-term plans envisage extensions to the north of the country, a link from Tema to Akosombo on Lake Volta, and development of a suburban network around Accra.