Let's get Mike Henry's transport dreams going

Monday, October 30, 2017

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Dear Editor,

I do share transport minister, Mike Henry's vision of a road, rail, sea, and air multi-modal transport system for a modern and progressive Jamaica.

He deserves some credit because he's been saying this for some time now, which means that he truly believes in it.

Henry actually succeeded in bringing back a limited version of railroad system the last time around his party served as Government. Then his party lost the following general election and the replacing Government decided it would be too expensive to operate and shut it down.

That said, I too would like to see the rebirth and revival of the Jamaica Railway Corporation. As a product of the railway system, it would personally bring a lot of joy to my heart.

I did my apprenticeship there and came out a machinist. It was quite an experience, one that I will never forget.

The railway system was self-sufficient and it had its sport club and oval at which we would play cricket, football and other events. It also provided a lot of employment for the various departments that supported the corporation. For example, as a part of your five-year training period, after you passed an academic test to be selected as candidate, you would be sent to school. And any future electrical or mechanical engineer candidate was selected from that pool for higher learning. During training you would be sent to various shops within the workspace for a specified time period and the task that one showed the most aptitude in would be your final destination. The choices included: electrical, fitting, welding, air break, mechanical, and machining, with an option to become a trainee locomotive driver. They were perquisites, too — free rail travel anywhere in the country.

The railway is the cheapest form of transportation in any country, especially when it comes to hauling commercial and agricultural products. However, it is now not going to be cheap. It will probably have to be scaled down and subsidised by the Government with the help of a gasolene tax.

But the first thing that should be done is to build a line from Kingston yard to the wharf, which is in close proximity, similar to the one that was extended into Coronation Market. This, I believe, would generate a lot of business. That should have been done during my time and moreso now.

But who can forget those passenger service trains, diesel-powered coaches, or rail cars powered by Rolls-Royce engines that can be coupled or driven independently.

Leaving at 7: 00 am to Montego Bay, passing the workshop, you could identify the engineer by the way he would toot his horn. With all those scenic views, passengers, including the tourists, would be in for a ride. And, yes, bringing back the railway should be an integral part of the redevelopment and revitalisation of Kingston. A modern railway system is something any country would be proud of.

Noel Mitchell

Westchester, New York, USA





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