(ACCRA)  As Ghana’s urban landscape gently slides by the train window, Shaibu Amoah swells with pride.

The 37-year-old has been helping to renovate railway lines in Accra since June, clearing debris and shovelling ballast in the hot sun.

When the short line from Accra to the port of Tema finally reopened in January, Amoah was on the first public run.

“I am feeling proud of my work because I am helping my country to move ahead,” he told AFP as the train eased out of the capital.

The head of the Ghana Railway Development Authority, Richard Diedong Dombo, said the transport sector was crucial for the country’s development, pointing to railways as historic “engines of growth”.      

President Nana Akufo-Addo established the railways development ministry in 2017 to restore existing lines dating back to British colonial rule -- and build new ones.

Ghana’s railway network comprises three lines with some branch extensions, totalling 940 kilometres (584 miles) of track.        

Only about a sixth of this is actually in use, and much of the rolling stock is out of date or in disrepair.

Even though the section between Tema and Accra has been renovated, the 30-kilometre (18-mile) trip takes an hour and a half.

But under a 2013 “Master Plan,” the country aims to have 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) of track by 2048.

It would connect Accra with Sekondi-Takoradi in the southwest to the central city of Kumasi, and to Tamale in the north, and link Tema to Burkina Faso, Ghana’s northern neighbour -- a 1,200-kilometre endeavour in itself.

Diedong said “a mixed bag” of financing, including local sources, was helping with rehabilitation work, but foreign firms were likelier to build new lines, which are far more costly.    

No contracts have been awarded for new lines, but China and Chinese companies seem more interested in investing in infrastructure in Ghana than those in the West, he said.