Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Major partners mum on collapse of rail deal

Published:Sunday | December 17, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Ziadie
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Dr Sean Matthew, president of the United States-based Herzog International, has declined to comment on reports that a planned deal with the Government to revitalise sections of Jamaica's rail network has been shelved because his company failed to meet the terms of a memorandum of understanding.

"I couldn't help you other than to refer you to (Transport) Minister (Mike) Henry and the DBJ (Development Bank of Jamaica). There is an enterprise team that the DBJ is part of, so Minister Henry and the DBJ can give you a full update. I'm not at liberty to disclose anything," Matthew told The Sunday Gleaner via telephone from his Florida office.

But Denise Gallimore, manager for public private participation and privatisation at the DBJ, also refused to comment on the matter.

"My manager currently has no comment and she asked me to direct you to the Ministry of Transport and Mining," a DBJ staff member said when our news team attempted to contact Gallimore.

 

ZIADIE'S RESPONSE

 

However, Ferris Ziadie, chairman of the board of the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC), was forthright in responding to the questions.

"At the end of the timeline, they did not put a business plan on the table. We signed in December 2016 and it was six months, and I think they requested an additional three months. But here is the beauty about it, the JRC did its work during that period because we had to have our own figures to use as a matrix or a yardstick, to see if what somebody else is putting on the table is realistic.

"So we did our numbers and our business plan and that time variable, we didn't lose anything on it. In fact, it gave us an opportunity to do our own assessment of what are the possibilities of the cost. What are the possibilities of the numbers?" said Ziadie.

He added that the JRC has learnt from this experience.

"So now we are in a position from day one to evaluate anything anybody puts on the table. Phase 1 is still on, the only thing is (that) there is a delay because of this issue.

"We are looking, hopefully, to start a section of it by the winter tourist season next year this time, while if Herzog had got the green light, now we would and have been off and running long before that ... so the only thing that has shifted is time variables," said Ziadie.

A non-binding MOU to involve the investment of US$250 million for the resuscitation of Jamaica's cargo and passenger rail service was signed in December 2016, with Phase One, from Montego Bay, St James, to Appleton, St Elizabeth, initially slated to get under way before the start of the 2017 winter tourist season.

The others phases, 2a - Spanish Town to Ewarton, Spanish Town to Clarendon Park; Phase 2b - Appleton to Clarendon Park; Phase 3 - Spanish Town to Kingston; and Phase 4 - Connecting Vernamfield to the existing main line, were expected to follow.

During his presentation in the Sectoral Debate in April, Henry had expressed confidence that the trains would start rolling by early next year.

"This represents the proverbial light at the end of a long and dark tunnel," declared Henry in Parliament, as he stated that the service which has been suspended since 1992 was on track to resume.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com