Jamaica to resume commercial movement of industrial minerals and aggregates by rail

March 29, 2023
Transport and Mining Minister, Audley Shaw, (second from right) signing agreement regarding the movement of minerals by rail (JIS Photo)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 29, CMC – Jamaica is to re-introduce within the next three months, measures to transport by rail service, the commercial movement of industrial minerals and aggregates.

The resumption of the rail service follows an agreement formalised between the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) and the Mineral Agency for Retail and Logistics (MARL).This is the first time the service will be reintroduced since 1992.

The 15-year contract is estimated at a value of $33 million for the first year.

Under the agreement, MARL gets the right to lease land to be used for the loading and unloading of cargo, while having the trains transporting aggregates from Old Harbour to Linstead and from Bog Walk to Port Esquivel, for shipment to other Caribbean islands.

Industrial minerals, such as limestone, sand and gravel are essential for the construction of homes, roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.

This alternative transportation modality is expected to reduce vehicular congestion, especially in urban areas, as well as ease the environmental effects of quarry material, such as dust nuisance and falling aggregates.

Transport and Mining Minister, Audley Shaw, said to maximise productivity and economic activity, “people and goods must be able to move efficiently.

“The impact of the re-implementation of railway service is a multi-sectoral [and] multidimensional need that will not only solve the problem of vehicular congestion, but it will also provide an economic inflow, boosting the tourism product of the country.”

Shaw said that with the current ownership of 335 kilometres of railway tracks across the island by the JRC, the government will continue to explore “different avenues and investment opportunities to actualise the goal of re-establishing rail service in the island”.

JRC chairman, Ryan Parkes, said the agreement falls under “broader strategic objectives of the JRC for the next three to five years.

“We believe that the movement of freight, especially when you look at the various opportunities for export, is going to be a very important ingredient towards Jamaica realising greater economic growth and development,” Parkes said.

MARL chief executive officer, Rockey Wood, said that truck drivers were consulted before the signing of the agreement, as they will be travelling shorter distances to deliver the aggregates.

“The longer [distances] is negatively impacting their bottom line. They’re not making as much profit carrying the material for over five hours. What we’ll give them is shorter journeys, so they can have more trips, they will become more profitable [and have] less wear and tear of their machines,” he noted.

Wood said the company projects a “20 per cent less than the current [transportation] cost,” using a combination of road, rail and marine transportation systems to move approximately 5,000 tonnes of aggregates in a shorter period.

“Our solution is geared at alleviating the difficulties faced by our transportation and core industries, while providing a consistent supply of raw materials for the construction and other secondary industries, at significantly lower cost,” he said.

Railway services were first introduced in Jamaica in 1845 and continue to be spearheaded by the JRC, under the Ministry of Transport and Mining.

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