Mon | Jan 18, 2021

TransJamaican Highway, NROCC negotiating terms for additional toll road

Published:Wednesday | November 25, 2020 | 12:12 AMSteven Jackson - Senior Business Reporter
Ivan Anderson, managing director of National Road Operating and Construction Company.
Ivan Anderson, managing director of National Road Operating and Construction Company.
A section of Highway 2000.
A section of Highway 2000.
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TransJamaican Highway, toll operator for the East-West corridor of Highway 2000, has moved forward plans to acquire more toll roadway currently under construction in the parish of Manchester.

The road project is being undertaken by the Government of Jamaica through the National Road Operating & Constructing Company Limited and is scheduled for completion in October 2022.

TransJamaican Highway Limited, which is controlled by NROCC, wants to extends the toll road it manages to Williamsfield in Manchester.

“The completion date is 2022, and early next year TransJamaican will make a formal submission to NROCC,” said NROCC Managing Director Ivan Anderson at TransJamaican’s annual general meeting on Tuesday.

The toll operator, whose toll network currently extends from Bushy Park, St Catherine, to Clarendon, was divested by the Government and listed on the stock market earlier this year. NROCC is the largest shareholder with 20 per cent interest.

TransJamaican has a right of first refusal to own and operate the new leg of the highway.

“We have brought forward those negotiations and started looking at traffic along the corridor from May Pen to Williamsfield, to understand the likely toll that can be charged and the likely volume of traffic and revenue on the roadway,” said Anderson. “We expect the traffic to be similar.”

TransJamaican was divested after its acquisition by the Jamaican Government from French owners of the concession, Bouygues Travaux and partners. Expatriate Thierry Parizot remained as the head of the company through the transition, but NROCC is now in the process of recruiting a new managing director.

TRAFFIC DECLINE

“Yes, an ad was placed but no selection made to date,” said Anderson. “We are still reviewing the applications submitted,” he said.

Traffic on the highway dipped 16.4 per cent between January and September due to the impact of the pandemic on travel. Usually, 1.9 million vehicles use the highway monthly, but that fell to a low of 940,000 during April due to lockdown measures and closure of the parish of St Catherine to contain the virus. Monthly traffic in July recovered to 1.7 million vehicles but dipped in August and September due to increased lockdown measures and the continued closure of schools, said Anderson.

The consequences of the global health crisis have not abated since its emergence in Jamaica in March, and various restrictions imposed by global governments to contain the spread of COVID-19 are still weighing on travel, and, consequently, on the level of traffic observed on most road networks across the globe, he said.

“This makes forecasting of traffic very difficult because it’s dependent on the restrictions that are imposed by the Government of Jamaica,” he added.

As to the prospects for future traffic, the company continues discussions with a number of private and public sector developers along the highway corridor to facilitate access. TransJamaican expects 14,000 new housing solutions within the Bernard Lodge area in St Catherine to come on stream in coming years, which would serve as a source of new commuters. The company also plans to set up a gas station in a zone along the Causeway Bridge in Portmore, St Catherine. This would augment the existing gas station at Old Harbour.

For the quarter ended September 2020, TransJamaican earned revenue of US$11.2 million, down 16 per cent year on year. Over nine months, revenue fell 17 per cent to US$32.6 million. The company made a loss of US$2.7 million in the quarter, pushing its total losses over nine months to US$8.6 million. Up to this point last year, the company was running a profit of US$2.1 million.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com