KINGSTON — Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Mike Henry, says the Cabinet will be updated on the level of investor interest in Jamaica's railway service, within the next 30 days.
Speaking with journalists during a tour of the Spanish Town railway station, St. Catherine, on Thursday July 14, 2011, Mr. Henry said that close to US$300 million is needed to fully restore the service.
“What we are saying (to investors) is the railway is viable. Invest your money with your expertise and look at it, and expand the outreach of the railway. I will wait on Cabinet to decide on (how we treat with the matter, a decision) will be taken in the next 30 days or so,” he said.
Mr. Henry noted several income generating “elements of value” capable of enabling the rail service to operate profitably. They include: passenger and cargo service; data transfer, with cables being laid to facilitate communications capabilities; and heritage/tourism attractions.
He said the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) is focusing on resuming the passenger service. The resumption commenced July 4, with a trial run between Spanish Town and Linstead, St. Catherine, following the closure of the Bog Walk Gorge. It marked the first time the JRC was operating in 19 years.
Explaining the rationale for resuming at this time, Mr. Henry said that he “embraced the opportunity” offered by the closure of the Gorge to conduct the trial run, and assess the public’s response to the service.
He said that an assessment of the five-day period ending July 14, and excluding the weekends when the service is not operated, showed that that nearly $2 million in revenue was generated from upwards of 2,000 passengers commuting daily.
Asked to how much it will cost to operate the service over the 30-day period, JRC Chairman, Barry Bonitto, said the figure is still being worked out. However,Mr. Henry indicated that the figure was well above “break-even point”, and assured that the income is covering the cost of operating between Spanish Town and Linstead.
The Transport Minister said he is meeting with other transportation stakeholders, including taxi operators, on a continuous basis to analyze issues affecting them and to ensure correlation between all parties.
Mr. Henry said that the names of the persons who will constitute the new JRC Board are to be submitted to Cabinet next week. He added that, at the end of the 30-day period, an assessment will be made to determine whether the service is sustainable and economically viable, what the challenges are and how they will be addressed.
By DOUGLAS MCINTOSH, JIS Reporter