'Fix them up'

MoBay's mayor urges JRC to rehabilitate unsightly derelict buildings in St James

Observer writer

Thursday, February 07, 2019

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CAMBRIDGE, St James — Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Homer Davis is calling on the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) to rehabilitate a number of unsightly derelict buildings in St James, which are owned by the corporation.

“I am appealing to the JRC to not only in Cambridge, but right across St James where they have their properties in deplorable conditions — do something to make these properties aesthetically pleasing. Because, it is not only here [Cambridge], alone. If you go down into Anchovy, they also have a property down there. They have a property in Montpelier, and when you leave here, you go to Catadupa, and they are all in the same state. I think as landowners, as landlords, they have an obligation to make their properties aesthetically pleasing for the communities,” said Mayor Davis.

The mayor made it clear that while he is cognisant that the JRC has not been using the facilities for a number of years, the train company has an obligation to take care of their properties.

Davis' call comes as plans are being finalised to resume rail service between St James and St Elizabeth, and when efforts are being made to improve the look of buildings in the parish.

JRC chairman Ferris Ziadie conceded that the corporation's properties have deteriorated over the years.

“Since 1992, with the discontinuation of public passenger and cargo services, with the exception of bauxite/alumina services on sections of the rail network, much of the JRC's assets, especially fixed assets such as land and buildings have deteriorated. In the process, squatting has also been a factor,” Ziadie told the Jamaica Observer West.

The chairman further stated that in order to facilitate the resumption of rail service, the JRC's assets will be looked after.

“This venture will see the rehabilitation of much of these rail assets, including station buildings, to facilitate the resuscitation of the rail services in St James and St Elizabeth. This process is at the final stages pursuant to an agreement between the JRC and a consortium of private investors,” Ziadie revealed.

“The JRC will be having further meetings shortly with the St James Municipal Corporation and the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation to update and advise them on the progress made with respect to the restoration of rail/train services, including the revitalisation of the rail assets in sections of western Jamaica,” he explained.

All five stations, made chiefly of wood, in St James, were closed abruptly in 1992 following 97 years of operations.

Mayor Davis then informed that Cambridge and Catadupa are soon to experience “new economic life”, citing the proposed resumption of rail service.

“The train will start running soon. Phase one will be from Montpelier to Appleton, the rum distillery. Phase two will be from Montpelier to Montego Bay, most likely down to the wharf where, when the tourists come off the ships, they can board the train and go on their merry way. Cambridge and Catadupa will once again be seeing new economic life,” Mayor Davis projected.

Ziadie said while efforts over the last three decades to revive the rail service have not borne fruit so far, there has been a concerted effort at the policy and operational levels to restore and revitalise rail services.

“This was made possible through Cabinet's approval for the JRC to identify investors to participate as joint venture partners in the revitalisation of the rail service on a phased basis starting with Phase 1 from the Port of Montego Bay to Appleton in St Elizabeth,” he noted.

Cambridge resident Wayne Sparks said while talks of the rail service returning have been around for sometime now, the return of the train would be welcomed.

“Based on where the tourists them stop to where me see it right ya now, them no get fi see the country parts. The tourists them need to see the other parts of the island, not only the seacoast alone. They need to see these country parts,” stated Sparks.

Sparks, who currently makes and sells craft and souvenir items for the tourism industry, added that while he was not a beneficiary in the past, he would be able to benefit, when the rail service resumes.

“Mi never a benefit from it (train service) at that time. It was before, I come on board [into the tourism industry], but I know, if it comes now, I surely would get to benefit from it, because the things them that mi do, I sell them to the craft vendors them in Negril, Montego Bay or Ochi Rios, and all over,” said Sparks.

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