Government considers introduction of bullet trains
Source: Reuters
Date: 08-05-2015 Time: 04:05:57:pm

Government is putting in place plans to build a bullet train that will reduce transportation from Accra to Kumasi to 1.4 hours from station to station.

The Minister of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), Rashid Pelpuo, through the Office of the President has engaged a New York Investment bank Chesterfield Faring Ltd. (CFL) to devise a Request for Proposal (RFP).

The CEO of CFL Mr. Lawrence J. Selevan visited with the Honorable Dr. Pelpuo last week in Accra, Ghana.

During his stay, Mr. Selevan met with the Departments of Transportation, Housing, and Finance to coordinate the underwriting of the RFP.

In a quote from Mr. Selevan, “I believe that Ghana is ready for a state of the art mass transit system that will speed up the commute for millions of everyday citizens in both Accra and Kumasi”.

The plan is to build an elevated light rail mass transit commuter system linked to the Kotoka International Airport.

Initial estimates for Phase 1 of the RFP is USD $12 billion growing to USD $30 billion over the balance of the decade.  Bids will be considered after the master plan of the rail and TOD are completed in the RFP.

“Also, the USD $30 billion should have a 3.0-3.5 multiplier effect increasing immediate economic activity to almost USD $100 billion before the end of the decade, as well as the aftermath of the investment; increasing GDP by almost 3% per annum, growing to over USD $2.0 billion annually”.

“The immediate impact will be apparent as vehicular congestion allows more access and an easier flow of traffic, both for commuters and freight transportation.”

The Honorable Dr. Pelpuo remarked, “We sought out the best firm with the greatest vision to improve the everyday lives of all of our citizens through an improved affordable transit system.  We will be building beautiful sustainable ‘cities within our city’ that will be a model for all of Africa into the future.”

Mr. Earl N. Caldwell II and Mr. Kevin A. Copeland of The Catalyst Group, a Ghanaian based real estate developer, has provided local guidance to CFL to navigate the local markets, demand drivers, and interpreted the macro vision for the RFP.

The light rail mass transit commuter system will include trade zones, which will have shops, public and private parks and gardens, office towers, hotels and 1,000 unit residential towers.

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1 comment on “Bullet Train in Ghana?”

  1. First of all, I like the general idea of an elevated light-rail system for Accra linked to a regional high speed line. For safety reasons both systems cannot operate on the same rail line. More than 30 years ago (I think it is close to 35 years) I argued in the Daily Graphic for the a light rail system to be developed in Accra because 1) it is capable of being upgraded through grade separation to improve its quality of service; 2) it can transport more passengers per hour than what buses can do; 3) it has a strong identity and can improve land use; and 4) a light rail system on a fully separated right of way will avoid vehicle-pedestrian conflicts and increase traffic safety, and reduce fuel consumption. Those suggestions fell on deaf ears, and instead Ghana continued to invest in buses in Accra. It is refreshing that this idea is seeing renewed interest and I hope that the government continues exploring it.

    A quick look at Accra traffic reveals that congestion occurs in well-defined corridors: the Aburi-Medina-Acca corridor, the Achimota-Accra corridor, the Kasoa-Kaneshi-Accra corridor, and the Teshi-Nungua-Accra corridor. Another corridor that may be added is Spintex-Achimota-Abeka. May be others can be identified and added to this list. In all these corridors there is the need to move large volumes of passengers quickly and it is apparent that buses will not work and have not worked; tro-tros also will not work. A double-articulated light rail train operating at two minutes headways (i.e. two minutes apart) at the peak in a single corridor can move 9,000 passengers per hour (300 passengers per train x 30 trains) or close; a passenger volume which cannot be served by a platoon of buses or a bus rapid transit system. With that said there are many advantages in having a light rail system and it is the trend in the US now. This, however, does not mean we should ignore the roles which other modes of transportation could play. Instead, we should view the Accra transportation problem as a transportation planning problem and not as an engineering problem and clearly identify the role each transportation mode is to play. Therefore, I hope that those considering introducing a light rail transit will also consider the roles to be played by tro-tros, local buses, taxis, private cars and bicycles etc. A possible scenario for be considered is to use the local buses and tro-tros as feeders to the light rail system. A successful light rail system in Accra will certainly displace some tro-tro drivers who, by the nature of their business (ease of moving capital between corridors), can begin serving the outlying towns of Accra.

    Aside from what I have said above, I must confess that I am concerned about the dollar amounts in the news clip you sent. While I have not checked the construction cost data lately, I am not sure the $30 billion amount is correct,it should be less. My reasons are: 1) land cost is very low in Ghana and the government can use the power of eminent domain to even get the land cheaper and 2) labor cost is also cheap in Ghana. The cost of a light-rail car should be at most $1.5 million (for those built in Japan) and I do not think it will cost $65 million per mile to build such a system, nor do I think each station will cost $10 million to construct. Those will be ridiculously high cost in the Ghanaian context. However, as usually is the case, electrical and signaling costs may be large. A possible cost reduction strategy is for the the government to consider using some of the roads in Accra as the right-of-ways for the light rail transit system. .

    As regards a rail system between Accra and Kumasi it should cost far less than the amounts noted above since we are not dealing with a built environment. Again, the cost can be reduced by putting the rail system in the median of or next to the Accra-Kumasi road. Unlike transit, this rail system will serve a dual purpose; to transport passengers and move freight. On the passenger side, why don’t we consider some of the newer rail technologies out there, in particular MAGLEV (magnetic levitation technology). The Japanese are quite advanced on this and recently tested a train achieving speeds of more than 250 miles an hour. The Germans and the Chinese also have this technology although I must admit that the Germans exported their technology to China and were influential in China’s technology being successful. For the freight movement a proven technology is the use of diesel electric locomotives. In the US this latter technology is so well advanced that it is very fuel efficient. The CSX railroad boasts in an advertisement that it uses a gallon of diesel fuel to move a ton of freight 300 miles. A successful rail freight system will serve Ghana well by: reducing road construction and road maintenance costs, reducing road accident cost, creating an inland container port for moving and handling containers, generating employment, and reducing shipping cost.

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