Gov't looking for partners to help revive rail service says Shaw
Minister of Transport and Mining, Audley Shaw

The Minister of Transport and Mining, Audley Shaw, says the Government is "actively looking" for investors to join it in reviving the island’s shuttered rail service.

Shaw has argued that the revival of the rail network is crucial to the country’s economic growth. He made the remarks on Wednesday during his contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.

“Now is the time to capitalize in order to have vibrant economic growth. Movement of people and cargo across the island is essential to achieving this,” Shaw commented.

He disclosed that he had “formal proposals of interest” from at least two overseas entities to assist in revitalizing the service. He said one of his top priorities as minister is to ensure that Jamaica’s rail service is put “back on track”.

The minister pointed to the pilot student passenger rail service project which he said was successfully implemented in January to provide safe and cost-effective transportation to students from Old Harbour and Linstead to Spanish Town, St Catherine, in an integrated, multi-modal transport system.

Six schools participated in the programme where the trains carried more than 66 per cent of their capacity, transporting 16,683 students at a combined total of two round trips per day during the course of the pilot.

“Options to open up the service to the general commuting public are currently being explored as we approach the summer months, where schools will be closed,” Shaw said.

He said the government was “currently in pursuit of the rehabilitation of the rail infrastructure and the operation of a tourist train service from Montego Bay to Appleton Estate by a private investor, which will facilitate the growth and development of the Jamaican economy and enhance the quality of Jamaica’s tourism product”.

“Further to this, reconstruction of the rail infrastructure from Kingston to Spanish Town is a critical next step for development. In order for this to be achieved, the Sandy Gully Railway Bridge will have to be rehabilitated. This will indeed require partnership with the National Works Agency, among others,” said Shaw.

He said his ministry was actively pursuing queries about moving freight on the active line in the WINDALCO corridor – Ewarton to Port Esquivel – as the railway’s ability to transport large volumes of goods over long distances, typically unimpeded by traffic congestion, makes it the cheapest form of land transport which contributes significant economic value in reducing transport cost.

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