Minister of Transport, Robert Montague, said work has commenced to eventually resume passenger train service from Linstead and Old Harbour into Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
He noted that students will be prioritized, along with teachers, parents, and essential workers – including those in the health sector.
He said: “As for the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC), its workshop in Kingston has been restored and a solar light project there has been completed in order to restart the school train service from Old Harbour and Linstead via Spanish Town. We are working with the Jamaica Heritage Trust to restore our station houses – especially the Old Harbour Station.”
Montague explained that, after the students are taken to Spanish Town by train, they will be transported to schools using the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).
“In partnership with the JUTC and the Ministry of Education, we are hoping to move our children from Old Harbour and Linstead into Spanish Town by train. Then the JUTC will pick up and drop them off at the various schools in Spanish Town. In the afternoon, the reverse will take effect,” Montague further said.
He noted that the train went on a test run to Linstead last week.
“Last Thursday, the train went to Linstead on a test run. This is not talk; this is a clear demonstration of the will of this government to build back stronger. We are moving to create a safe and orderly system to take our children to and from school. We are hopeful that we will be able to expand this over time,” the minister added during his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in parliament on May 26.
Meanwhile, Acting General Manager for the JRC, Donald Hanson, said his agency has been mandated to commence the school train programme in time for the new school year.
He said the plan includes having two round trips per day that would cover Spanish Town to Old Harbour and Spanish Town to Linstead.
Hanson further commented: “The plan is to begin in September with the new school term, but we are planning some runs before that to sensitise people that we are about to embark on this project.”
He said, since passenger train services through the Bog Walk Gorge ceased in 2013, the trains have been kept active, and have been running excursions for school children from Spanish Town to Linstead and back.
Hanson said there are also trains in Kingston with coaches, which are used to take children on rides in the JRC yard when schools cannot afford the run to Linstead.
He noted that many of the railway tracks have been paved over at road crossings, and that the JRC intends to work closely with the National Works Agency to repair the tracks.
The government, in the meantime, is also planning to revitalize railway service between downtown Kingston and Marcus Garvey Drive.
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