Thu | Jun 20, 2019

Letter of the Day | From Highway 2000 to Railway 2030

Published:Wednesday | March 20, 2019 | 12:14 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Given the tremendous role that transport plays in a country’s economy, it might not be a bad idea for the Government to commission a design for a comprehensive rail system for Jamaica, to be constructed over several years, owned by the Government and probably financed by a special long- term bond offered to Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora.

Or if the bright expectations of the economy are realised, this development could be funded in stages from the national Budget. Beyond the economic advantages of this system, there aren’t many better ways to deliver benefits to the people of this country – every day of their lives – than through cheaper, faster and more reliable transport. The current arrangement for public transport by Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) shows a lack of equity, given that this service is not available to a large part of the country, even though the entire country pays the taxes to keep JUTC afloat.

A comprehensive rail system would provide the Government with another means by which to offer this most important public service to the population equitably, and profitably.

I believe that the plan to build a highway between Kingston and Portland through Morant Bay, offers a perfect opportunity to make provision for later accommodation of rails in the design and construction of a new highway, and as such, reduce the cost of building – at least – this one leg of the many necessary legs of the railroad when the time has come for it to be built. The railroad would allow the JUTC to move large numbers of persons for work, leisure, school and otherwise between Kingston and other locations quickly, timely, comfortably, and profitably. This rail system would remove the need for a large number of vehicles to be driven into the Corporate Area or other towns through which the rail runs. Persons could park their vehicles and travel by train in a timely, fast, and comfortable manner.

Construct paid parking

The respective municipal corporations or JUTC itself could construct paid parking areas for persons to leave their vehicles until they return from their trips on the JUTC train. Several other business opportunities would be created by this system. As this system expands across the country, our roads would become less congested, transport in general would become far more efficient, the need for road repairs would decrease, road accidents would decline, and the economy would grow. Given the possible speed of trains, travelling by this means between the two farthest points in Jamaica could be done in less than one hour.

The Government needs to merge what assets remain of the Jamaica Railway Corporation with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, forming a new entity with a new name and a new mandate to provide transport to the public by road and rail, extending beyond the urban boundaries, and this entity should be completed and fully operational by 2030.

WINSTON FOSTER

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