Trains For America

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Jamaica to reopen passenger railway lines

Jamaica has one of the oldest rail systems in the Western Hemisphere, although the network had been in slow decline since World War II, culminating in the end of passenger rail services in 1992. On Friday, however, the government announced that it was partnering with China to revitalize the railways and build 18 new stations.

According to Henry, arrangements have already been made with the Chinese government to facilitate the construction of 18 new railway stations across the country. These will accommodate new tracks of 105-pound standard to enable greater speed and load-carrying capacity.

He said the reintroduction of the passenger and freight railway service is intended to significantly impact on rising fuel costs. The Government is focused on getting much of the island’s freight transportation done by rail and increasing mass transit to ease traffic gridlocks in urban centres.

While it’s easy for us to focus our concern about fuel prisis and automobile dependency on the first world, it’s also important for developing countries to have an alternative to car travel (though I realize Jamaica is more developed than most “developing” nations). They shouldn’t have to make the same transportation mistakes we did. Considering Jamaica’s small size, reinvigorating the national rail system seems like a good choice.


Filed under: International High Speed Rail, , , ,

20 Responses

  1. Allan says:

    You absolutely correct. Too many countries in the “developing” world lack a good rail infrastructure and are dependent upon trucks to move their goods.

    I can point to Mexico as a prime example. Mexico has a pretty limited rail infrastructure and there are literally thousands of trucks jamming the roads and highways. You’d think that they’d want to get the freight off the roads as much as possible so as to save the oil for export and revenue.

    China seems to be getting in on all the deals around here …

  2. Noiger says:

    The reactivation of the Jamaica Railway Corporation is something that I have been agitating for and the news that it will actually become a reality is indeed quite welcome. The country actually has trains up and about but it is merely been used by the bauxite companies to transport raw bauixte to the ports on the south coast from the interior.

    So, the passenger rail will be rolling again and it will be a huge alternative to the current situation that currently exists in which the major highways are clogged with motor cars.

    Trinidad and Tobago is the other country within the Caribbean that will also invest in a rail system but unlike Jamaica this venture will have to start from scratch.

    What China and Jamaica will be doing is to spend 300 million USD to upgrade and replace the collapsing infrastructre that has been partially unused.

  3. Tony Kuhn says:

    I live in the Cockpit Country here in Jamaica, 7 miles from the tracks in Maggotty. I operate a guesthouse outside of Accompong, and dream of the day I can go to Maggotty instead of Montego Bay to pick up visitors.
    A big problem for tourism in southern Jamaica is the lack of reasonable transportation from the airports to the interior. For example, an airport transfer from MoBay to Treasure Beach on the south coast is $120 one way US! from Kingston, well over $200.
    There are some major hurdles to overcome in completing the rail renovation, for one there is a stipulation in the contract for the Highway 2000 project, that calls for penalties if any transport improvments made by the Jamaican Government impact the toll colection for the new highways (think interstate type dual carriageway monstrosities)
    The road network here in Jamaica is awfull, potholes as big as refrigerators, too many trucks and overloaded mini-busses, not to mention moving hazards, cows, goats, etc.
    Get the traffic off the main roads and onto the rails!

  4. Noiger says:

    Tony, I have been advocating for the resusitating of the railways for quite awhile and in letter to the Minister which was sent to prior to his announcement in the Parliament. He responded to my call and has advised that the stipuation which was apart of the Highway 2000 agreement will no longer be a factor.

    I entralled that this project is finally going on ahead.

    But, there is also a recent announcement from the state agency that plans city developement, stating that Kingston, will see the development of a national rail museum at the Jamaica Railway Corporation. Since, the railway in Jamaica is the oldest in the western hemisphere then it is natural that some sort of historical monument should be establish to recognize this fact.

    The phsical structure will be apart of the transportation centre that is currently been constructed in downtown Kingston.

    I lookforward to the day when it become a natural act to take the train across the country again.

    My first train ride was when my family took the train from Manchester to Kingston in 1973 and I still have vivid memory of that experience.

  5. Douglas says:

    I am on holiday in Port Antonio right now.
    The fact that there is an existing rail network but no rail service is just embarrassing. The state of the roads are a disgrace. I just don’t understand how the government have got away with it for so long.
    I have spent the bets part of my holiday discussing this with people ..and they are frustrated. I am SO happy that there seems to be a plan.

  6. Anna says:

    I am currently conducting a study on the prospects that a revived rail system and travel will have on the country’s tourism sector. It seems to me that with all the problems directly and indirectly associated with road travel, many are enthused that positive changes will come not only for the tourism industry but for local travellers.

    It would be interesting to know though what actual expenses are anticipated for the long and short term future as well as what level of sustainability have been considered and planned for. We need a Plan that is cheaper than the actual implementation, if we are to let go of the current burden of puting the cart before the horse.

    A highway or railway system or any other infrastructual development no matter how great is counter productive if its development is not centered around the overall accessability and benefit of the majority.

  7. The roads in Jamaica are a nightmare, revitalizing the Jamaican railways system would be a blessing especially if a station would be built in the Treasure Beach area. It is really sad that Jamaica has the oldest railway system in the Americas and it was just simply allowed to go into obscurity. I am glad that Jamaica has decided to partner with China a global power to revitalize the railways system.

  8. Gary Morgan says:

    Every developing nation needs a good transportaion system. The Prime Minister said, that work will began by year’s end. This will add jobs to the country’s ecomony. It is time for Jamacia to move into the 20th century even if we are 8 years behind. The railway system will help goods and services move faster thoughtout the country and give its citzens and alternative of transportation. Its about time!

  9. Winston Lewis says:


    Can this new railway be cost effective and does not become a drain on the budget as air jamaica? I believe it can be cost effective.
    The previous government tried to sell/divest the railway for the past 15 years without much success.
    It is always difficult to sell a closed down plant than one that is up and running. Hence the difficult in attracting investors during that period.
    The perferred approach is for the government with the ‘Chinese’ loan proceed to revitalise the railway recognising that there is a huge dependence on rail haulage for the Bauxite/Alumina industries ( which are now in decline but will rebound within 24 months ) and potential new industries like limestone for export. There needs to be a partnership between the major players in the mining and quarrying sectors, container haulage players to get the much needed synergy to revitalise the railway.

  10. Congratulations to Mike Henry on a his decision to give a timeline for resumption of Jamaica’s rail service. This is only a start and it is very important to know that Mr. Henry did not give an official figure of what the Government of Jamaica would have to dole out before islandwide rail service becomes a factual reality. One can only keep vigil to see what and if anything will materialize, regardless I have some confidence in his bravado in trying to bring back to light the glory of the Jamaica Railway Corporation, one of the oldest railways in the English-speaking world.
    Clinton H. Wallace
    Fürth, Northern Bavaria, Germany

  11. shaun bailey says:

    i am just hoping this becomes reality,we need an alternative to the crowded taxis and minibuses on the island,hopefully it will also ease traffic congestion on the roads.

  12. Howard says:

    This would be music to my ears if and when this does become a reality. I pray and trust they have a system linking all the towns and double to quad rail tracks as opposed to the one they had before.

    I remembered the days when if the train from Kingston arrives at Greenvale first, it had to wait for the one from Montego bay to arrive before pulling off because of one rail track.

    I welcome the ideas

  13. Anonymous says:

    there r lot of people that live on the train line were would those people go i dont think jamaica really need a train what i think is that the country should leave it a lone as it is lots of people would have no were 2 live

  14. WINSTON says:


  15. chris reid says:

    there are a lot of families living on and near to the train line is the government planning on relocating these families.these people are in a very precarious position with no place to go,is there a solution to their plight

  16. Gaston A. says:

    If you live on the track it means you are there illegaly; you captured some property dude!! Get the hell off. You have no choice. What do you want? Do you want the government to pay you for what is not even yours. Come on man be real. I wish I could talk to you face to face, because I would not be as polite.

  17. Thanks for writing this article. I really enjoyed it. Keep up the quality work, dude!

  18. Anonymous says:

    I would like to know the present state of passenger train service in Jamica. Is there a website which will give me uptodate information.

  19. Anonymous says:

    people don’t bad talk the country look on the bright side 90 percent of jamaica don’t pay tax so how can the road maintain. and it rains like wow in jamaica and you know the rivers make there own road. so its not the governments fault alone its everyone and nature. we need special roads in jamaica that can withstand the frequent rains. nothing we can do still a free nation tho if you no lazy best place and cheap place to live

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