JIS News

Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill has assured workers of the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 that the construction arm of Bouygues Travaux Publics Construction Company, Trans Jamaica Highway, would remain in Jamaica for another 30-odd years.
The Minister, who toured the Portmore Causeway in St. Catherine today (Feb. 21), was responding to the concerns of several workers who were adamant that Bouygues could not pull out of Jamaica as was being rumoured, as this would result in a loss of income for them.
“This is a private sector venture and the construction arm is part of Bouygues and when the phase that is now in progress is finished, if all the arrangements including, most importantly the financial arrangements are not put in place, then they will relocate but if that is not so they will stay. But we have until 2007 for those things to be perfected,” the Minister said.
He however pointed out that Bouygues had so far performed well and that projections had been met. Mr. Pickersgill further said that Prime Minister P.J. Patterson would shortly address the issue of whether or not the French company would move on to Williamsfield after the Portmore leg of the highway was completed in July.
He said the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) had “done further studies to look at going to Ocho Rios and to review the cost involved and those are looking quite attractive now, so it is a matter of dealing with the concession agreement, getting the finances in order and if all those things can be achieved the next phase could very well be to Ocho Rios but the Prime Minister will be speaking on those matters shortly,” he said.
Meanwhile Managing Director of NROCC, Dr. Wayne Reid explaining government’s involvement in the financing of the construction phase said, “We have a concession agreement which is privately financed. The government from the very beginning has contributed or has promised to contribute US$87 million of which US$72 million has already been contributed.”
The other US$15 million he said was to fund Phase 1 B of the project, whether to Ocho Rios or Williamsfield, “and therefore what we are looking to see in our negotiations with Trans Jamaica Highway is to come up with a deal where the government does not have to lend them any more money and the project can be completed,” he explained, adding that there was no need for the government to seek additional financing.
“The government may be seeking funds to refinance the project – it is completely different from seeking additional funds as refinancing is getting funds at a lower interest rate so as to make the project even more attractive but government is not looking for additional money to put into the project,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Minister Pickersgill announced that one section of the Portmore leg would be opened by the end of April at which time motorists would have access to a 21-lane toll plaza.
The Minister said there would be nothing in Jamaica to compare to the roadway and road network when it was finished. “There will be six lanes on the bridge. three on either side. One section will be open towards the end of April and when that is opened they will move towards the demolition of the existing structure,” he informed.
Mr. Pickersgill informed that the government had pledged to keep the alternative route maintained to a certain standard, “because we have to remember that it is a private sector investment and that billions of dollars have been spent by these investors and they need to get a fair return on their investment and in any case in terms of the concession agreement it is set as to how we approach the toll and we have to go through those procedures and process. If not we will be exposing ourselves to legal consequences”.
To date he said Bouygues has employed more than 1,600 hourly workers and 300 monthly workers and had spent some J$7 billion in Jamaica.