Mon | Oct 23, 2017

Herzog set to resuscitate 207 km of Jamaican rail

Published:Sunday | April 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
A reconditioned passenger train as seen in April 2011.

The Jamaican Government received a revised plan from United States-based Herzog International last December to rehabilitate nearly two-thirds of Jamaica's rail network with an initial service targeted for this year end.

The consideration is to launch the service with the downtown Kingston to Linstead leg.

"The plan is to have the trains up and running in December. That is the view of Minister Mike Henry," stated Vando Palmer of the communications department at the Ministry of Transport on Wednesday. "Herzog is in Jamaica now doing preliminary work to do the resuscitation."

Both political parties support the drive to restart the rail. The revised Herzog plan was submitted to the PNP administration, according to budget documents tabled this month by Finance Minister Audley Shaw.

"Herzog has undertaken necessary due diligence, and at December 2015, the company submitted a revised business plan to rehabilitate approximately 207 kilometres of the 334.9km rail track. The work will be undertaken on a phased basis," Fiscal Policy Paper 2016-17 stated.

Jamaica entered into an earlier memorandum of understanding with Herzog International Inc to undertake detailed due diligence to facilitate the preparation of a proposal to the Government.

The passenger rail system operated in its original format until 1992 after the accumulated losses. In 2011, the Jamaica Railway Corporation relaunched a short-lived rail passenger services on the Spanish Town-Charlemont route in St Catherine. That ceased service in 2012 after reportedly losing roughly $2 million monthly. Despite these events, commercial rail of bauxite never ceased operations in the island.

The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) indicates that the railway can be resuscitated despite the concession agreement for Highway 2000.

The DBJ has previously said that any new element introduced for rail that results in reduction of highway revenues will trigger compensation at levels to be determined by an independent traffic adviser mutually agreed between the National Road Operating and Construction Company and TransJamaican Highway.

Another issue of contention is the more than 2,000 persons who squat on lands owned by the Jamaica Railway Corporation.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com