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VIDEO: UDC eyes renewed ferry service for Kgn Harbour

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY Senior staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com
Tuesday, September 27, 2011


THE Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has given notice of plans to re-establish a ferry service to improve commute between Port Royal, the Norman Manley International Airport, Portmore in St Catherine and downtown Kingston.

"That is definitely something we will be pursuing because we do believe that the infrastructure cost is going to be lower than a bridge and the demand, we think, would be multifaceted because this is not going to be a stationary fixed feature as a bridge would be but the ferry could be deployed to wherever it needs to go," said general manager of the UDC Joy Douglas, who yesterday headed a team of technocrats attending the weekly Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Corporate Area headquarters.

The urban planner said this proposal would take precedence over "a very old proposal to do a bridge which spans the harbour, which had come from the Ministry of Transport and Works" and the original ferry service which operated exclusively between Port Royal and Downtown Kingston before it was discontinued some years ago.

"There has not been a feasibility study on it (bridge) and it's a very old proposal. We had looked at it when we were working on the updated plan for Downtown Kingston, but I am not sure the ministry has taken it any further in terms of doing any further feasibility studies," said Douglas.

"I am not sure that there was a sense that we would have enough traffic going to the airport that would really make that possible," she said, adding that based on the work the UDC has done in the past, re-establishing a ferry service between Port Royal, the airport and Portmore, was practical.

She said the UDC had participated some years ago in the examination of a multi-modal system for Kingston in which a ferry service had featured highly, given the fact that "Portmore has become the fastest-growing urban area in the region, not just in Jamaica".

"So it was felt that in terms of Portmore still being primarily a dormitory community, and a lot of the residents still have to come into Kingston, then it would possibly be entirely feasible for a ferry service between Portmore and Kingston to work and so Downtown Kingston would be a logical terminal stop," Douglas said. "This ferry service that would be developed going forward would not just be for the airport but also for pleasure, and for normal commuting to and from work."

The UDC head said the feedback from preliminary discussions with the Ministry of Transport and Works about the matter have been "very positive".

"It is something we would have to do in conjunction with the ministry. We also had to liaise with the Port Authority with respect to the proposals for a cruise ship pier, because the development plans for Downtown Kingston have made provisions for a cruise ship pier, based on our interaction with the Port Authority," she added.

Douglas explained that the plan was to utilise high-speed vessels similar to those used in Europe and elsewhere for transporting persons.

"I can't tell you the travel time, but I am thinking 10 to 15 minutes would not be unreasonable," she said. "We initially spoke about trying to establish one or two of the vessels to see how commuters would respond."

In the meantime, she said the Kingston Harbour, one of the largest the natural harbours in the world, has been zoned by the UDC not only as an economic area but also for recreational purposes.

In that context, she said there "would have to be a concern about the long-term rehabilitation of the harbour".

"Let me say positively, though, that with the advent of the Soapberry Sewage Treatment plant, which came out of the Inner-city Housing Project of the National Housing Trust, will significantly assist with the clean-up of the harbour, because it now means that sewage that would end up in the harbour is ending up in a properly built sewage treatment plant," the UDC general manager told the meeting.

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