JIS News

The Ministry of Transport and Works, under Minister Michael Henry, has been upgrading and repairing the road network, building bridges and started plans to re-introduce the railway system, since the new Government was sworn into office in September last year.
To that end, in October Cabinet approved $300 million, to effect repairs, to several roads, gullies and drains, that were damaged during the heavy rains that affected the island.
In Central Jamaica, the National Works Agency (NWA), an agency of the Ministry of Transport and Works, undertook road repair work on several major roadways in the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
Some $676 million has also been spent to upgrade roads in five parishes, under the National Road Services Improvement Programme (NARSIP).
The sum represents 67 per cent of the contracted amount to be spent in the parishes of Manchester, Portland, St. Catherine, St. Thomas and Westmoreland.
The programme is being funded by the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and is aimed at providing a safe and reliable national road network.
In the meantime, the Ministry commenced major road works at the Port of Kingston maritime business district, ahead of another phase of development of the port.
This is aimed at eliminating traffic congestion between the port and the urban centres of Portmore and downtown Kingston to the West and East of the New Port West maritime business district.
The Ministry is proceeding with plans to re-institute a programme for commercial vehicle weight limit enforcement. This programme seeks to address the problem of damage to Jamaica’s roads, caused by the overloading of vehicles, mostly trucks, and also to improve safety along the roadways.
Fixed scales will be installed at five locations across the island, along the following road corridors: Harbour View, St. Andrew to Yallahs, St. Thomas; Port Maria, St. Mary to Buff Bay, Portland; Ironshore, St. James to Falmouth, Trelawny; Central Village, St. Catherine to Six Miles, St. Andrew; and Clarendon Park, Clarendon to Spur Tree, Manchester.
The Ministry has also started work on the Palisadoes Strip. Communications Manager at the Ministry, Mr. Reginald Allen, pointed out that the work, which is part of the Ministry’s long term plans for the strip, is crucial at this time, because of its gradual degradation resulting from rising sea levels.
In terms of bridges, the Government constructed a new $402 million Yallahs Bridge in St. Thomas, which was opened recently. The new bridge has replaced the Yallahs Ford.
A Bailey bridge has also been installed at the Hope River in Harbour View, St. Andrew, which was destroyed by Tropical Storm Gustav.
The Minister, in January also signed contracts totalling $11.9 million, for the construction of a Bailey bridge at Doc’s Pass in Clarendon.
Residents of Doc’s Pass/Quarry, Coffee Piece, Bryan’s Piece and surrounding communities, will benefit from the project.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, held at his office in Kingston, Minister Henry said the project would entail construction of a 33-metre long single lane structure.
In the area of Transport, a new state-of-the-art Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre was opened in January, to accommodate buses of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).
The $4.7 billion double-level transportation centre, boasts passenger holding areas and spacious bus bays, which can also accommodate taxis. Other facilities include 17 commercial shops, a 900-foot food court, four commercial kiosks, 17 public toilets, with two equipped for the disabled.
A major Smart Card marketing thrust was launched in December 2007, which resulted in smart card growth by 20 per cent by the end of March 2008. As of February 1, the JUTC also began personalising Smart Cards, free of cost, for those commuters who wish to pay, using the cashless system.
Since the appointment of the Board of Directors on October 9, 2007, the company has employed a combination of cost-cutting and revenue enhancing strategies, which have significantly downsized its workforce, to enable more efficiency in its operation.
Significant cost savings of $50 million per month, or $600 million annually, in expenses, have been realised by the closure of the Lyndhurst Road Depot in November 2007 and staff redundancy in February 2008.
The improvement in the management of staff, through re-organisation and tighter controls, resulted in the lowering of the monthly staff costs from $190 million to $150 million.
With the completion of the redundancy exercise on June 30, further cost savings of approximately $40 million per month, are expected to be achieved. This will result in total cost savings of $1.08 billion per annum.
In terms of the Railway, a committee was formed, which procured the services of PricewaterhouseCoopers, to prepare a Limited Scope Business Plan, for the Jamaica Railway Renovation Project.
A proposal from China CAMC Engineering Company Limited (CAMCE), which has been on the table for the last three years, has been decided as the route that will be taken by the Ministry. The original project estimate prepared by China CAMC Engineering Company Limited in 2006, was US$310 million.
However, PricewaterhouseCoopers, prepared revised project costings of US$348 million, in the Limited Scope Business Plan. The current estimate was adjusted for the converted exchange rate.
In the Maritime sector, Jamaica was successful in its bid to sit on the Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
The Minister, who headed Jamaica’s delegation to the IMO Council meeting in London in November, said the country’s election to the Council was very significant.
“It means new and fresh demand on us, as we take on the wider area of responsibility as it relates to the whole area of the Caribbean and the importance of the protection of the environment, which was a key theme of the (IMO) meeting,” he explained.
A contract valued at $83.06 million for the construction of a fishing village complex on the Dyke Road in St. Catherine, was officially signed in February.
The complex will be constructed on a part of the Jamworld property on the Dyke road. The facility is to consist of a vending block, capable of accommodating 36 vendors, storage units for 110 fishermen, and supporting bathroom facilities.
In terms of port security, some 42 Port Security Officers have been added to the existing cadre of officers employed by the Port Security Corps, as part of continuous efforts to strengthen the security capabilities at the nation’s ports.
The Kingston Container Terminal’s (KCT), new western berth at the Kingston Port was also opened in July. The western berth is the fifth phase of expansion at the KCT, undertaken by the Port Authority of Jamaica, which has direct portfolio responsibility for the facility. The latest in the series of developments, which commenced in 1994, was undertaken at a cost of US$248 million.
For the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a new state-of-the-art Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network (AFTN) switch, was installed in October.
The switch, which includes a modern pilot briefing system and an aircraft billing system, is expected to enhance the country’s air traffic services, enabling the CAA to accurately capture revenue from airplanes that traverse the island’s air space.
In terms of airport development, the Ministry is currently reviewing expressions of interest from four prospective developers, so as to establish Vernamfield as an air transshipment hub.