No talks yet for MoBay Transport Centre expansion
DESPITE NUMEROUS commitments by state officials, talks are yet to commence for the acquisition of the next-door property owned by the Jamaica Railway Corporation, for the long-awaited expansion of the Montego Bay Transportation Centre.
Montego Bay is considered the services hub of the Caribbean, being home to a raft of leading international brands in the business process outsourcing (BPO) and tourism sectors, but the infrastructure has not improved to match the city’s growth.
During a tour of the current facility last November, Transport Minister Audley Shaw announced the development of a new and modern facility, which will be twice the size of the current location. Shaw claimed that the facility will be built on three acres of land, close to where the previous Montego Bay train station was located, but there has been no word since.
“I know that two meetings with the Railway Corporation were put off because Minister Homer Davis had a last-minute engagement, but no discussion has started,” a reliable source told The Gleaner.
The main transportation centre which is located on Barnett Street is owned by the St James Municipal Corporation, but its operations are being handled by private operators under a long-term lease.
Homer Davis, minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister, hinted at an impending meeting with the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) but did not offer details when pressed.
“I am to meet with the railway corporation, any time soon,” he said.
The first-time member of parliament (MP) is quite familiar with the congestion that has plagued the popular tourist resort over the years, having served as chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation, before joining the central executive in 2020.
Last year, Davis met to discuss concerns that transport operators contracted to outsourcing firms are key contributors to the traffic gridlock each day.
“Montego Bay’s development has outpaced the current infrastructure, and the authorities need to start planning for the expansion of a proper transportation centre as a matter of urgency, by immediately identifying lands. And I believe the railway lands next to the current facility is ideally situated,” Mark Kerr-Jarrett, managing director of Barnett Limited, operators of Barnett Tech Park, said late last year.
The outsourcing sector employs approximately 50,000 workers, with about 70 per cent of the firms located in western Jamaica.
President of the St James Taxi Association, Dion Chance, said the failure of the authorities to establish adequate facilities and control the influx of unregistered or “robot” taxis in the system, have resulted in parking violations and a continuous “cat and mouse” with the police and Transport Authority officers that continue to fuel allegations of corruption against members of both state entities who are seen as enablers of the chaos on the roadway.
“The facilities provided are woefully inadequate based on the number of vehicles operating in the parish and the enforcement is very weak,” Chance said. “The routes currently terminate anywhere in the city and unless we have proper transportation that will never be solved.”
However, Glendon Harris, former mayor of Montego Bay, believes adding more acres will create a logistic nightmare for park managers. Instead, he believes the focus should be on establishing multistorey car parks at the current locations.
“When I was mayor, we looked at it and knew that it needed more space,” he said. “The current location can accommodate a second floor and make provision for a third (floor) in the foreseeable future because these are modern times and the space is not there to spread out, so it would be best to go up.”
Under Harris’ watch, some route taxis were allowed to park along certain streets in the commercial district.
However, the police have reported that only 60 per cent of the public passenger operator vehicles are making use of the current facility, which contributes significantly to the congestion concerns.