The Ghanaian inventor who has been pushing for the transformational speed rail system in Ghana says the government has bought into his idea, specifying progressive steps that have been taken to make the project a reality.
Dr Thomas Mensah has revealed 45 contractors that presented tenders to take up the project have been pruned to ten and a May 9, 2018 deadline set for the shortlisted contractors to present final quotes.
“We made a lot of progress. Right now, Joe Ghartey, the Minister of Railways Development, has his team with full hands on deck, moving forward with the high-speed rail project,” he revealed on Wednesday on current affairs programme, Upfront.
He told show host, Malik Abass Daabu, that a 2021 deadline to the completion of two important phases of the project looks achievable because of the commitment the current administration has shown in the project.
“Investing in high-speed rails will transform Ghana from an underdeveloped country to a developed country,” he said.
He said the trains, which will run on diesel, not electricity, will bring investment and accelerate growth exponentially.
Dr Thomas Mensah, a Chemical Engineer, whose Fibre Optic invention revolutionised the internet, is confident that unlike in the past where the life of ambitious projects has been cut short by lack of political will and funds, the high-speed coaches will be rolled out to the admiration to the world.
“This is different because this time you have an alignment: you have a President that is very serious about infrastructure development; you have a President that says ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’, that is his mantra.
“In his 7-year development plan, he mentions infrastructure, he mentions creating jobs. He is serious…and luckily the Minister of Railways is doing a great job now – working, listening to advice, working hard to make sure that the transportation infrastructure, which is the first step if you are climbing the ladder [to development],” he said.
He said the Chinese, whose investment will fund a huge chunk of the project, are convinced about the viability of the project and have a proven track record of a similar project in Africa, citing Kenya’s speed rail system.
Like the Kenyan system, where the train travels over 480km through at least six stations to from Mombasa in the North to Nairobi in the South, Ghana’s system will also travel from Accra, through six other stations to Paga in the Upper East Region.
The proposed rail stations when the project opens in 2021, if the current progress is sustained, according to Dr Mensah, will be sited in Accra, Tema, Kyebi, Boankora, Kumasi, Tamale and Paga.
“This means you can get to Tamale…in two hours instead of the ten hours as it is now,” he said.
Dr Mensah started a forceful campaign for the cheaper but highly efficient high-speed train project when the Ministry for Railways Development announced that it was seeking $21.5 billion to renovate Ghana’s old rail system.
– Most of Ghana’s predominantly colonial-era rail tracks are dilapidated.
At the time, he argued that only $6 billion could build construct a better system, however, during Wednesday’s interview on Upfront, he cut the figure even further to $3 billion.
The 67-year-old member of the American Academy of Inventors revealed that fibre optics can be deployed to his proposed high-speed rails to make it safer.