Commercial movement of industrial minerals by rail to resume soon

The commercial movement of industrial minerals and aggregates using the railway infrastructure will resume in roughly three months as part of the Government’s effort to re-establish rail service across the island.

This resumption follows an agreement formalised between the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) and the Mineral Agency for Retail and Logistics (MARL), at a signing ceremony held at the Ministry of Transport and Mining in Kingston on March 28.

The contract will last for 15 years and is estimated at a value of $33 million for the first year. This is the first time the service will be reintroduced since 1992.

Under the agreement, MARL gets the right to lease land to be used for the loading and unloading of cargo, while having the trains transport aggregates from Old Harbour to Linstead and from Bog Walk to Port Esquivel, for shipment to other Caribbean islands.

Industrial minerals, such as limestone, sand and gravel are essential for the construction of homes, roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.

This alternative transportation modality is expected to reduce vehicular congestion, especially in urban areas, as well as ease the environmental effects of quarry material, such as dust nuisance and falling aggregates.

Minister of Transport and Mining, Audley Shaw, in his remarks, said to maximise productivity and economic activity, “people and goods must be able to move efficiently”.

“The impact of the reimplementation of railway service is a multi-sectoral [and] multidimensional need that will not only solve the problem of vehicular congestion, but it will also provide an economic inflow, boosting the tourism product of the country,” he argued.

Shaw pointed out that with the current ownership of 335 kilometres of railway tracks across the island by the JRC, the Government continues to explore “different avenues and investment opportunities to actualise the goal of re-establishing rail service in the island”.

For his part, chairman of the JRC, Ryan Parkes, said the agreement falls under “broader strategic objectives of the JRC for the next three to five years”.

“We believe that the movement of freight, especially when you look at the various opportunities for export, is going to be a very important ingredient towards Jamaica realising greater economic growth and development,” Parkes said.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer (CEO) of MARL, Rockey Wood, said that truck drivers were consulted before the signing of the agreement, as they will be travelling shorter distances to deliver the aggregates.

“The longer [distances] is negatively impacting their bottom line. They’re not making as much profit carrying the material for over five hours. What we’ll give them is shorter journeys, so they can have more trips, they will become more profitable [and have] less wear and tear of their machines,” he noted.

Wood said the company projects a “20 per cent less than the current [transportation] cost,” using a combination of road, rail and marine transportation systems to move approximately 5,000 tonnes of aggregates in a shorter period.

“Our solution is geared at alleviating the difficulties faced by our transportation and core industries, while providing a consistent supply of raw materials for the construction and other secondary industries, at significantly lower cost,” he said.

Railway services were first introduced in Jamaica in 1845 and continue to be spearheaded by the JRC, under the Ministry of Transport and Mining.

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