KINGSTON — The Jamaica Railway Corporation says the phased resumption of passenger train service could materialise within a month, after being dormant for nearly 20 years.
JRC Chairman, Barry Bonitto, made this disclosure in an interview with JIS News following Saturday's April 16 test run of a reconditioned train between May Pen, Clarendon, and Linstead, St. Catherine.
He said that the rail service is expected to commence along that route, noting that further details of the development will be disclosed shortly.
Led by Transport and Works Minister, Hon. Michael Henry, Saturday’s test run saw upwards of 200 government, public and private sector stakeholders, interests and well wishers, making the over 30-mile journey in the five-coach train, which Mr. Bonitto said, was reconditioned at a cost of more than $30 million.
It was the first time, since rail service ceased in1992, due to unsustainable costs, that a passenger train was being operated in Jamaica.
Mr. Bonitto informed that resumption of passenger train service for the remainder of the island is expected to be undertaken on a phased basis, details and scheduling of which would be outlined in due course.
The timing of this undertaking, he added, is contingent on the execution of extensive rehabilitation works on the relevant railway infrastructure, which he pointed out, had either fallen into disrepair, or had been vandalised.
Speaking with journalists, prior to the train’s departure from May Pen, Mr. Henry described the move to resuscitate the passenger train service as part of efforts to develop an “integrated plan of travel” for the commuting public.
Noting the accruable benefits of reviving the service, Minister Henry cited a study on Jamaica’s railway, undertaken by the United Kingdom-based engineering consultancy firm, Halcrow Group Limited, which showed that train service would contribute greatly to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country.
“Anything that makes people move in a free movement of time and (contributes to) saving money, means that you can be more productive,” Mr. Henry contended.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter