Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Public-private partnership being explored to expand train service

Published:Thursday | March 17, 2016 | 3:00 AM
On April 16, 2011, Mike Henry (right), who was minister of transport and works at the time, launched the return of the railway system. The moment was shared with fellow government ministers Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange and Andrew Holness, along with chairman of the Jamaica Railway Corporation, Barry Bonitto (left).

Among his first tasks as the newly appointed minister of transport and mining, Mike Henry said he was exploring a public-private partnership for the rehabilitation of the railway service.

Minister Henry said that Jamaica, in adopting a modern-day integrated multi-modal transport system, of which the railway is a key component, would be embracing the reality of the changing and fast-paced world in which we live.

"The railway is the most important element of transport anywhere in the world, and Jamaica has the second oldest railway in the world, connecting every port in Jamaica. We exist in a just-in-time world where you need to deliver goods and services as early as possible, in order to be on top of the niche markets and be able to grow your economy," he explained.

"This means that if the economy must grow, it must get its goods and services right there. We are, therefore, going to connect rail, sea and air," the minister added.

FAST-PACED WORLD

Henry said the railway currently runs from Pechon Street in downtown Kingston to Vernamfield in Clarendon, but not into any of the international airports, and this would facilitate the movement of cargo into the proposed Vernamfield development.

He said that a distinguishing feature of many modern countries, as they embrace the fast-paced world, is the building of underground railways to facilitate the necessary elements of connectivity.

"You must move from rail to sea to air, so the railway must be re-established," he emphasised.

The minister said that the numerous housing developments in the Old Harbour area that are not linked to the highway present an opportunity for passenger trains.

"We should not be afraid of integrating these services to the economic development of the people and the country, so I am now exploring a railway development very urgently," he said.

In 2011, as the minister of transport and works, Henry was instrumental in the rehabilitation and return of the train service to Jamaica, which had been dormant for 19 years.