Mike upset as a gem goes to waste
Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
Former transport minister, Mike Henry, is flaying the administration over its failure to transform the old railway station on Peachon Street in downtown Kingston into a viable commercial concern.
"Even if you are not going to revive the rail service as I had planned, you can make the Peachon Street facility into a heritage site as part of the rebirth of downtown Kingston," Henry told The Gleaner.
"You must understand that this was built shortly after James Watt developed the steam engine, and Jamaica was the second railway opened in the world outside of the United Kingdom," added Henry.
The Peachon Street facility was built in 1845 in Jamaican Georgian architectural style using brick.
It was built on a grand scale to emphasise its importance as the main terminus of the railways.
The still magnificent building has prominent arcades on both levels of the east entrance end, with Victorian cast iron brackets supporting the roof overhang on the track side.
Since being closed in 1992, the facility has remained mainly unused, and Henry is adamant that the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration is missing a golden opportunity to drive economic growth and push the rebirth of downtown Kingston.
"Enough was left behind by me for the rail service to be restructured, including an American firm that was ready to invest," said Henry.
But Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies, who replaced Henry after the People's National Party's victory in the 2011 general election, has said that the Government will not be reintroducing rail service as it was not deemed economically viable. However, Davies left the door open for the divestment of the service to private sector entities.
That is not enough for Henry.
"Even if you do not start the rail service, the downtown Kingston facility is a valuable heritage site that could attract thousands of visitors to the area. I still think that without the rail service, even the proposed logistics hub, which they are approaching from the wrong way, will not succeed," said Henry.
"The Peachon Street facility should display the history of the railway in the world even if it is not used for modern travel."