In Kumasi, the widespread encroachment on lands earmarked for railway redevelopment is hampering the redevelopment of the Ashanti Regional corridor of the Western Railway line.
The situation is equally terrible in the national capital, Accra, where squatters have taken over tracts of land along railway lines.
Since President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cut the sod for the renovation of the railway lines in the Ashanti corridor in September last year, the contractor has not been able to move to site as a result of the massive encroachment.
The worst affected area is the regional capital, Kumasi, where the first phase of the multi-million dollar railway development project was to be undertaken between Adum and Kaase, a distance of six kilometres.
Some of the structures that have found their way onto the lines include residential homes, cold stores, churches, school buildings and warehouses.
At the centre of the city at Adum, what used to be the railway station and adjoining lands are now occupied by a market where food items are sold, mostly in ramshackle wooden structures.
Worried over the situation, the Ghana Railway Authority (GRA) has resorted to dialogue with the encroachers and other people affected by the project to get them to vacate the land for the contractor to start work.
The acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GRA, Mr Yaw Owusu, told the Daily Graphic, after one of such engagements at Kaase, that the encroachment was particularly heavy on the Kaase-Adum line in Kumasi, which formed part of the first phase of the project in the region.
He said the contractor had not been able to start work due to the encumbrances the encroachment had occasioned.
Some unauthorised structures raised by encroachers along the railway line from Odawna to the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange. Picture: ESTHER ADJEI
Interacting with the media last Saturday, Mr Owusu appealed to those whose structures were on the right of way to, as a matter of urgency, remove them or face forcible ejection.
“The few of us who chose to develop on railway lines are holding all of us to ransom because the project has stalled and unless we clear these structures, the benefits of a modern railway transportation system, as envisaged by the President, will be elusive,” he stated.
Already, he said, the authority was on the ground holding discussions with those concerned to vacate the areas and not to unduly delay the project, which he said was key to the transformation of the transport sector.
Mr Owusu said the sector Minister, Mr John-Peter Amewu, would also lead a series of stakeholders’ engagements to get the people to leave the project site and allow work to start.
Key among the stakeholders are the chiefs and the political leaders of the affected communities, who will engage the people to vacate the land.
During the sod-cutting ceremony to hand over the project to the contractors last year, the then Minister in charge of Railway Development, Mr Joe Ghartey, had told the media that the government would engage those who would be affected by the new line and compensate them appropriately.
However, he said, those who had built on the existing lines would not receive any compensation, since the structures were illegally erected,
In September last year, President Akufo-Addo cut the sod for work on the 83.5-kilometre standard gauge railway line from Kumasi to Obuasi, which formed part of the new Western Line project to connect the Ashanti to the Western Region.
The first phase of the project involved the construction of a six-kilometre line between Adum and Kaase, estimated to cost $48 million and which was expected to be completed within 12 months.
The contractor for the project is David Walters Company Limited, a wholly owned Ghanaian firm.
In Accra, the Daily Graphic observed that the encroachment on railway lands was mostly at Tudu in the city centre, with makeshift residential settlements close to the railway tracks, reports Kester Aburam Korankye.
The settlements, created by squatters, stretch through Odawna, Avenor, Abofu, Alajo, Tesano, Achimota and Dome.
The settlements, according to sources familiar with the areas, also served as brothels and safe havens for criminals.
When the Daily Graphic monitored activities on the stretch last Sunday evening and Monday morning, it was observed that most of the encroachers were petty traders, but there were also established businesses in the areas.
For instance, at Odawna and the Neoplan Station around the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, scrap dealers, car washing bays, mechanic shops, carpentry shops and drinking bars dominated the business activities.
There were, however, a few lotto kiosks, eateries, mobile money stalls and second-hand clothing sales points.
In some cases, scores of broken down vehicles had been abandoned on the rail lines.
The activities of the squatters had also led to the generation of heaps of waste along the shoulders of the rail lines and in the belly of the sleepers.
Fear of ejection
Some of the squatters who spoke to the Daily Graphic expressed fear of ejection.
A squatter along the Odawna stretch, Madam Afia Kumah, said a demolition exercise conducted about two months ago affected her makeshift house, which also served as a drinking bar.
She called on the government to properly resettle squatters before ejecting them or destroying their properties.
Reacting to the situation, Mr Owusu told the Daily Graphic in an interview that by June 3, this year, the authority would have completed the compilation of data on all people and establishments that had encroached ‘the right of way’ of railway lines in Kumasi.
According to him, the exercise and others would be conducted to make way for the demolition of structures on the railway lines.
“We want to do a final compilation of the affected people, after which there will be a road show to have one-on-one discussions with them,” he said.
He added that notification of demolition would then be sent out, while a complaint desk would be set up by the authority to address the concerns of affected people.
Explaining which categories of people were likely to be affected, Mr Owusu said structures within 60 metres from the centre of the railway line, on both ends, would be marked for demolition.
He said such people who had encroached on railway lands would not receive compensation, nor would they be prosecuted for their activities, although the government would bear the cost of the demolition.
He said although some businesses along the railway lines had leases to occupy such spaces, they were not expected to put up permanent structures.
That category of operations, the CEO explained, would be notified six months ahead of any demolition exercise to enable them to vacate the places.
Mr Owusu said the government was poised to complete the demolition exercise in Kumasi by the end of the year, while an arrangement was made to deal with the situation in Accra.
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