Mon | May 10, 2021

TransJamaican toll traffic down by 3.6m vehicles

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2021 | 12:05 AM
A section of the Portmore toll highway operated by TransJamaican.
A section of the Portmore toll highway operated by TransJamaican.

Traffic on Highway 2000 East West, which runs from Kingston to May Pen, dipped by 15 per cent, or 3.6 million vehicles, due to the dampening effects of the pandemic on travel and the economy.

Highway operator TransJamaican Highway Limited tolled 20.6 million vehicles during the year, down from 24.2 million in 2019. The busiest day of the year was Christmas Eve, with 90,000 tolled vehicles, up from the usual daily average of 56,270 vehicles for other days.

The toll data precedes the release of TransJamaican’s December fourth-quarter and year-end financial results, due in coming weeks, which will capture the revenue impact of the decline in traffic volumes.

The first quarter ending March 2020 would have seen the least impact of the pandemic since the first case entered Jamaica part-way that month. The toll operator’s revenue was flat at US$12.9 million for that period.

The second and third quarters each recorded a double-digit drop in traffic, which led to a double-digit drop in revenue. Specifically, traffic dipped 34.5 per cent in the second quarter ending June, and revenue dropped by 35.7 per cent to US$8.5 million from US$13.15 million a year earlier. The third quarter witnessed a 10.1 per cent dip in traffic, and revenue dipped 16 per cent to US$11.2 million from US$13.3 million a year earlier.

The fourth quarter, between October to the end of December, also recorded a 10 per cent decline in traffic year on year, the financial impact of which the pending results will quantify.

“We are not permitted to communicate any financial information at this stage until the same information has been shared with the JSE,” said management in response to Financial Gleaner queries. TransJamaican listed on the exchange in March.

The toll operator explained that the fourth quarter, although better than the second and third quarters, was still affected by the continued closure of schools, the tightening of the curfew hours, and the reintroduction of the ‘work from home’ order following the September general election.

TransJamaican, which operates some 50 kilometres of highway from Kingston to Portmore and to May Pen, also said that the drop in traffic, and decline in revenue, would not result in the company applying for a special rate increase.

“The toll increase process is annual and independent of this specific situation,” it said.

For the quarter ending September 2020, TransJamaican recorded a US$2.7 million net loss compared to a profit of US$625,000 a year earlier. Over nine months, its losses topped US$8.6 million, erasing a profit of US$2.1 million in the 2019 period, while revenue fell from US$39 million to $32 million this year. The company’s capital worsened slightly with the onset of the pandemic at US$55 million from US$59 million a year earlier. Its total assets grew, however, from US$294 million to US$325 million.

Additionally, management stated that its loan covenants are sound.

“As it relates to our bank loans or bonds, we confirm that we are fully compliant with all debt covenants for the bond,” TransJamaican said.