Jamaica’s railway system was created in the 1840s and was the first of its kind in the British West Indies. For the past 30 years, it has remained unused. However, Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw has announced plans to restore the railway system so that the country can take advantage of the multitude of financial activities available to it. Tourism was named as one of the primary industries that would benefit from the reintroduction of the railways, and it wouldn’t be the first time the system has been used to attract visitors.
Shaw said that many people want the train to come back, as it was very popular with tourists in the past. Feasibility studies have continued to support this claim, and the Minister believes that the country has an obligation to reopen the railway. The system would reopen in phases, beginning with a leg from Montego Bay to Appleton Estate with interesting stops along the route. This first leg would be specifically aimed at tourists and would be beneficial to Jamaica’s famous Appleton Estate Rum industry.
“The same way we are expanding our airports, we also want to revive our railway system here in Jamaica. Our railway system [which was closed 30 years ago] is one of the oldest railways in the western hemisphere and has a very rich history,” Shaw said. Shaw explained that the intention of the first leg’s restoration is to increase community tourism and bring money into the businesses along the route.
The reopening of the railways would be a unique way to see the countryside of Jamaica and would offer travelers a new way to see the country. Jamaica is an island with more to offer than just sunshine, white-sand beaches, and all-inclusive resorts. The interior of the island has scenic mountains that beg to be explored. Taking a train ride through the mountains would be a great way to see a different side of Jamaica that most visitors never even think about.
When the train ran between Kingston and Montego Bay in years past, it would take about 5 ½ hours to make the 113-mile journey. During the trip, the train would travel through some of the island’s most remote areas. The most popular journey that visitors typically took advantage of was the journey from Montego Bay to Appleton Estate, which coincides with the planned first phase of the railway’s revival.
2018 Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague also pushed for the revival of the railway system. “The rail service is long overdue and can be a real game-changer for tourism, particularly on the south coast. Not only will it assist in diversifying our tourism offerings, but it can significantly boost the earning potential of our local vendors who ply their trade between Montego Bay and the south coast,” Montague said. “When the railway was up and running, the Appleton leg of the tour, which started from Montego Bay, was very popular and was probably the number-two or -three attraction in the country.”
The plan to bring the railways back to life has been in the works for some time now and is receiving another push amidst the updates to Jamaica’s airports. The government of Jamaica signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the United States company Herzog International in 2016 to resurrect the railway service on sections of the island. Now that the railway system is being revived and fast-tracked, transportation will improve and positively impact the economy through the boost to tourism and other sectors such as cargo shipping.
Jamaica is aware of how vital the tourism industry is for their country, and the country is doing everything in its power to ensure that it can keep pace with the growing demand for visitors wishing to explore all it has to offer. With the reinstatement of the railways, visitors will have yet another way to see this beautiful island nation.
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