The Return of Passenger Rail Service in Jamaica
Last month Jamaicans witnessed the return of passenger train service as the Jamaica Railway Corporation carried out a test run from May Pen to Linstead, St. Catherine. Renewed passenger rail service in the country is exciting news and signifies a progressive step forward for improving transportation access and providing more mobility choices for Jamaicans.
Infrastructure is a critical component of the development of any nation, and it’s interesting to watch as nations elevate the importance of mass transit for their residents. Train service in Jamaica can help to reduce congestion on existing roads, promote economic and community development around stations, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and increase portability of agricultural and other goods between parishes.
Some islands, such as St. Kitts and Nevis, use their old rail lines to boost tourism and promote historic and cultural sites. The St. Kitts Scenic Railway takes tourists on a 3-hour tour around the island, weaving around fields of sugar cane, mountains, and offers views of nearby islands. Jamaica has the potential to use their lines in a similar fashion, and also promote eco-tourism in the process.
Jamaica has one of the oldest rail lines in the Caribbean and like most island nations, the lines were initially used to transport sugar and later on other agricultural and industrial products. There is a feeling of nostalgia for many older Jamaicans who remember riding the trains to work and school prior to passenger rail ceasing service in 1992. A younger generation can now reap the benefits of passenger rail, which should be an important boost for the country’s development goals.