Observer senior reporter

Friday, August 25, 2017

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STUDENTS in Clarendon are expected to benefit from the services of the State-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) starting September's new school year.

The move, a partnership with the Ministry of Transport and Mining, is the first phase of its rural-urban transport plan. It will commence with about six buses, two each on the following routes: May Pen to Old Harbour; May Pen to Lionel Town; and May Pen to Toll Gate.

Cecil Thoms, JUTC communications manager, said the project's aim is to improve access to a reliable bus service for rural commuters.

“The service is necessary because people in the rural areas are paying much more than those in urban areas for transportation. So we want to make the JUTC bus service more accessible to people in the rural areas,” Thoms told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

Since its inception, the JUTC has provided its service to the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR). The KMTR covers Kingston, St Andrew, urban St Catherine — Portmore and Spanish Town — and sections of St Thomas.

The JUTC also owns Montego Bay's Metro Bus Company, which services the parishes of St James, Hanover and Trelawny.

The proposed September move also marks a renewed effort by Transport Minister Mike Henry to fulfil his desire for a multi-modal public transport system, which will include all forms of transport becoming available to all commuters. He has insisted over the years that it is only fair considering that both rural- and urban-dwelling Jamaicans contribute to financing of the operations of the JUTC through their taxes.

Henry said the provision of the bus service would help to reduce reports of tragedies involving undesirable and illegal school bus operations which have emerged over recent years, as well as minimise the money spent on bus fare by students.

In July, Minister of Education, Youth, and Information Senator Ruel Reid said the Government would be embarking on a $200-million pilot programme, during the 2017/18 academic year, to provide transportation for students in eight parishes who are on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education, as well as wards of the State. These parishes include St Mary, Portland, St Thomas, Clarendon, Manchester, St Elizabeth, St James, and Trelawny.

Reid said that project is aimed at reducing the level of student absenteeism, which is as high as 20 per cent, with anecdotal evidence suggesting a higher figure of 55 per cent.He said that this was mainly due to high transportation costs, particularly in rural sections of parishes, where students pay as much as $500 per day in some cases.

Reid said the education and transport ministries would be collaborating in exploring how best the pilot could be expanded to other parishes by 2018.




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