By Rochelle Williams
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed to facilitate the exploration of rail technology, as Jamaica continues its push to revive the local railway service as a sustainable transportation option.
Jamaica’s first railway operations began in 1845 under the Jamaica Railway Company which was a private entity. After decades of changing hands between private and public enterprise, the Jamaican government became the sole proprietor of the railway in 1900, operating as the Jamaica Government Railway.
Jamaica’s railway service was discontinued in 1992, except for use by bauxite companies to transport products.
In the search for cost-effective air and land transport solutions, minister of transport and mining Audley Shaw said several options are being explored, speaking at the International Symposium on Railway Engineering held at the University of Technology (UTECH) Jamaica recently.
“We are in the process of acquiring electric and biodiesel buses for public transport as a pilot project, to ascertain benefits. This naturally brings into focus the importance of a well-functioning railway market, because in order for a country to maximise on productivity and economic activity, people and goods must be able to move,” he outlined.
Minister Shaw said the impact of the reimplementation of the railway service is multi-sectoral and multidimensional, as it will not only solve the problem of vehicular congestion, particularly in the more urban areas, but it will also provide an economic inflow, boosting the tourism product of the country.
The event featured the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UTECH and the University of Birmingham. The MOU is intended to forge collaboration between the two institutions for the promotion of rail technology in Jamaica. This will be done through academic and industrial capacity building, knowledge transfer and promotion of research activities.
State minister in the ministry of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator Leslie Campbell said, through this MoU, a new Jamaica centre of rail innovation will be founded to facilitate new training and research programmes on a range of railway topics.
“I commend both universities for recognising the intrinsic value of Jamaica’s railway infrastructure to Jamaica’s national development plan,” he said, emphasising the critical role of the diaspora in facilitating Jamaica’s infrastructure development.
He noted also that the government of Jamaica remains steadfast in its mandate to create an enabling environment for deepening engagement with the diaspora, as opportunities can be derived from this partnership.
The Senator also disclosed that the ministry of foreign affairs and foreign trade will be conducting a hybrid staging of the Jamaica 60 Diaspora Conference, from June 14 to 16.
The conference will provide for further discussions among participants that will include innovative ideas for national development.