Railway Corp supports development of Kendal crash site

Observer staff reporter

Monday, September 24, 2018

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KENDAL, Manchester — The Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) has expressed support for plans by the Manchester Municipal Corporation to establish a memorial/recreational park at the Kendal train crash site.

The JRC, an agency of the Ministry of Transport and Mining, is the owner of the track, which linked Kingston to Montego Bay, via Kendal, where the much talked about disaster happened on September 1, 1957.

A train taking people from a church excursion in Montego Bay back to Kingston derailed, leaving close to 200 passengers dead and many others injured.

Starting this month, the Manchester Municipal Corporation has embarked on plans to officially commemorate the event.

“I think those plans are commendable. I fully support the need to memorialise those who died and the families that are affected and reach out to them in whatever way possible,” chief executive officer of the Railway Corporation Fitzroy Williams told the Jamaica Observer Central.

Williams said there was great value in providing a quiet space where relatives of victims and others can reflect. From the standpoint of the JRC, a memorial/recreational park would also serve as a constant reminder that all efforts should be made to prevent recurrence of such a tragedy.

Williams said that since the 1957 rail disaster in Kendal the organisation has improved safety measures at all levels.

“Safety is of first importance in what we do. We do not say that it could never happen again, but not to that extent,” he said.

The JRC has, however, had a scaled down operation since 1992 and currently the train track in Kendal is not active.

Williams said that the Government has plans for revitalisation of all rail infrastructure across the island.

He said that plans to start the leg, from Appleton in St Elizabeth to Montego Bay in western Jamaica are well advanced.

Chairperson for the Kendal Crash Committee at the Municipal Corporation, Angella Edwards, said that the vision is that visitors to the proposed memorial/recreational park will be able to park their vehicles and take a rail car to the area.

Williams said that the Railway Corporation is open to discussions with the Municipal Corporation with those plans.

He said that in its heyday the organisation operated tracks, had extensive land holdings and provided accommodation particularly for station masters.

Williams said that the revived services will not be a replica of the original template but they will take some of what worked before and fuse it to satisfy the present day realities.

“The operation for the future must be viable and efficient. Rail service is the most cost-effective means of land transport,” he said.

The Railway Corporation head said that the organisation currently has responsibilities for managing its real estate including providing regulatory function to, for example, enabling use of the rail service by the bauxite plant in Ewarton, St Catherine.

He said too that private excursion services are offered by the company, primarily to schools, and the route is from Spanish Town to Linstead and Old Harbour in some instances.

Williams said that his organisation has a 173-year-old history and as such there are plans to establish a rail museum to structure the archiving of information including the Kendal crash.

Along with his support for the development of the Kendal crash site, the Railway Corporation chief executive officer also commended the observation of Kendal Train Crash Day declared by the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange.

He was in attendance at a service held at the Kendal Missionary Church on September 2 in memory of the Kendal crash.

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