TransJamaican Highway recovering from low traffic volumes
March 2021 quarter up 6.8% above pre-COVID levels last yearSunday, May 02, 2021
The recovery has started at TransJamaican Highway (TJH), operators of the East-West leg of Highway 2000, the toll road network which was hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
While the effects of the COVID-19 safety measures implemented by the Government to fight the pandemic are still being felt on TJH's traffic volumes, signs of recovery have been emerging since the start of the year. Traffic volumes at its 49.9 km tolled motorway between capital city Kingston and May Pen in Clarendon, and between Portmore in St Catherine and Kingston at the end of the March 2021 amounted to 6.8 per cent above that of March 2020, when the pandemic first hit our shores.
The East-West leg is Jamaica's first toll road and represents the largest infrastructure project in the English-speaking Caribbean. TJH is optimistic that greater levels of recovery will be realised, given the trend experienced during the first quarter, particularly last month, when traffic volumes accelerated.
For the first two months of 2021, traffic volume was down nine per cent when compared to the same period in 2020, which were not impacted by the pandemic. However, since then TJH — which operates four toll plazas at May Pen, Vineyards, Spanish Town, and Portmore — has seen traffic volumes rising.
Traffic volumes accelerating since the beginning of March
In its just released 2020 Annual Report, the toll road concessionaire stated, “Like everywhere else in the world, the commencement of the vaccination campaign should help restore economic confidence and strengthen our recovery in the coming months to a level of traffic, which is more in line with our ambitions.”
TJH has stated that 2021 will be devoted to studying the opportunity to operate the future section of Highway 2000 East-West — phase 1C — which is now under construction between May Pen and Williamsfield in Manchester.
The 28-km stretch will see the construction of a second gas station, built by Total, on lands adjacent to the Portmore toll plaza.
Strongly impacted by COVID-19
TJH was naturally strongly impacted in 2020 by the consequences of the global health crisis. The necessary measures taken by the Jamaican Government to try to stop the spread of the virus have limited the movement of people, which resulted in a drop in the number of transactions on the highway.
This caused toll revenues to fall 14.8 per cent below 2019 figures.
TJH Chairman Charles Paradis, in his statement to shareholders, said “fortunately, our financial structure is solid and has withstood this backlash well. Our commitments to our bondholders have been fully respected and a first dividend since our initial public offering on the Jamaican Stock Exchange in March 2020 was paid in December (US$6.6 million)”.
New managing director appointed
During the just-ended March quarter, the company welcomed its first local managing director, Ivan Anderson, who replaced Thierry Parizot. Anderson brings with him a wealth of experience in infrastructure development, project management, and financial planning.
Among the new managing director's priority areas is driving TJH's current development projects in Jamaica and the Caribbean. According to TJH, “the experience accumulated since our creation in 2001 is undoubtedly a major asset and allows us to look to the future with serenity and with the ambition to help shape a better life for the people of the territories crossed”.
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