The train will return, tourism minister assures Appleton boss
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, on Thursday, assured Clement 'Jimmy' Lawrence, chairman of J. Wray & Nephew, that the first phase of resuscitation of the passenger rail service, which should have been completed in time for the company's grand opening of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience, is still on track.
"Jimmy, the rail is going to be a reality," Bartlett declared at the opening ceremony at Nassau Valley, St Elizabeth. "The last discussion I had before I went to my meetings in Spain last week was with the team of entrepreneurs who are putting the dollars together, and they were able to tell me that yes, US$40 million is on the table now to start the first leg of the programme, which will take us to Catadupa and the second leg into Appleton thereafter."
Lawrence, in addressing the function earlier, noted that with the opening of the US$7.2 million renovated facility, which includes 26,000 square feet of buildings, it was anticipated that the railway would be available to facilitate the mass transportation of visitors from Montego Bay, St James, as a critical component of its business strategy.
"Let me underscore the importance of the rail service, particularly the Montego Bay to Appleton leg. The Rum Experience, which can accommodate 200,000 visitors annually, will not maximise its capacity in the absence of this mode of transportation. I know and appreciate that the Government is making its best effort for this to happen, but its importance cannot be over-emphasised," he said.
HOLNESS TAKES PERSONAL INTEREST
Bartlett, who was delivering the keynote address, in seeking to assure the Wray and Nephew executive of the Government's commitment to providing tangible support, explained that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had taken a personal interest in the matter.
"In the interim, Jimmy, the prime minister, who is also a great supporter of this Appleton Experience, wanted me to particularly say to you today that he is personally committed to ensuring that the transportation arrangements to enable what I call the seamless flow of visitors into your destination is in place. The road-improvement programme is on the cards for this fiscal year, and the Tourism Enhancement Fund is working with me on that," he said.
The return of the passenger railway service, along with improved roadways to facilitate smoother access to the Appleton Estate, is projected to also significantly enhance community tourism along the route and provide increased economic opportunities for stakeholders.