Current Affairs

Current Affairs




PM optimistic about completion date for North Coast Highway
BY MARK CUMMINGS Observer staff reporter
Monday, September 09, 2002


WESTERN BUREAU -- Prime minister P J Patterson has said that despite the setbacks to Segment Two of the North Coast Highway Improvement Project, work on the project is still expected to be completed on time, in 2004.

"The slight delays which have been occasioned will be compensated by some accelerated effort in the months to come, so we will meet the targeted date for the completion in early 2004," Patterson said.

The prime minister was speaking in Trelawny on Saturday, shortly after a tour of sections of the project.

Earlier, transport and works minister, Bobby Pickersgill told reporters that the project was "slightly behind schedule" due to the government's tardiness in relocating utility poles and pipeline.

"Part of our responsibility was to deal with that (relocation of poles and pipeline) and we have not been quick as we ought to have been, but we are going to remedy that as quick as possible," he said.

The transport minister also expressed the view that the project will get back on schedule very soon.

Work on the first segment of the North Coast Highway, running from Negril to Montego Bay, started in September 1997 and was eventually completed a few months ago at a cost of US$72.7 million.

The project, which was originally budgeted to cost about US$25 million, was officially opened by Patterson on Friday.

It's delay and cost over-runs were a source of embarrassment for the Government which is hoping that the next two phases -- Montego Bay to Ocho Rios and Ocho Rios to Portland --will not experience the same hitches.

Work on the US$60-million Segment Two of the North Coast Highway Project that span 95 kilometers between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, began in October last year and is divided into four sections.

Section One covers the 27.42 kilometres from Montego Bay to the Falmouth bypass, while the 41.77 kilometres from the bypass to Salem will be covered under sections two and three, and the fourth section will include the 21.81 kilometres between Salem and Ocho Rios.

Patterson said so far he is very impressed and pleased with the level of work that has taken place on Segment Two of the project.

"None of us can fail to be impressed by the magnitude of the work that is being undertaken, the terrain is rather different from that in Segment One, and some of the work that has been done with the new alignment can only be described as tremendous," Patterson said.

The prime minister reiterated that he would like to see work on the project proceed in an atmosphere of calm.

"If there are differences that appear from time to time at the workplace between workers and the employers we must have a way to settle them in constructive discussion," he added.

Last month the over 300 workers on the project took strike action to press home their demands for a 30 per cent increase in wages. The workers however, went back to work after they were promised productivity incentives by the contractors, Jose Cartellonie.