Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
The fate of the plan hatched by the previous government and the Brazilian firm Incala to refurbish old Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses is now facing an uncertain future as aspects of the plan have been abandoned by the current administration.
Under the deal, which was announced in 2011 by then Transport Minister Mike Henry, some 350 of 750 buses now in disrepair were to be refurbished either in Brazil or at a plant that was to be constructed at the Montego Bay Metro Company location in Bogue, St James.
"Those plans have been tweaked," Dr Morais Guy, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, cautiously told The Gleaner earlier this week.
"I can only say that the arrangement where buses were sent to Brazil for repairs is not on anymore. (Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies) can provide answers to all the aspects of your query," added Guy.
Efforts to reach Davies and his permanent secretary, Audrey Sewell, were unsuccessful and Sandra Myers, the acting director of transport policy, refused to speak on the matter.
When contacted, Henry flatly rejected suggestions that the plan he had masterminded was too expensive as, according to him, it was in the best interest of the transportation sector.
"As far as I understand, the project was cancelled," Henry told The Gleaner. "I think I heard rumblings about being too costly … . The basic point of my plan is that you cannot continue to rob the national transport system to only serve the metropolitan need and not the national need."
He added: "When I left (the transport ministry), there was an agreement with the Brazilians to refurbish some 700 buses over time."
Under Henry's plan, the plant that was to have been established would have eliminated the need and cost of sending the buses overseas for repairs. In addition, it was expected to provide more than 100 jobs as well as lead to the eventual transfer of technology from the Brazilians to Jamaicans.
A source with knowledge of the initiatives to be undertaken in the transport sector told The Gleaner that, with each shipment to Brazil costing US$40,000, the new plan is to reopen the old Jamaica Omnibus Service (JOS) base on Lyndhurst Road in St Andrew to carry out the repairs there.
According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the plan was to utilise the services of the experts and students of the HEART/Trust National Training Agency and the Jamaican-German Automotive School to service the fleet.